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{{Short description|Species of plant}}{{About|the tree and the fruit|other uses|Olive (disambiguation)|olive oil|Olive oil}}{{redirect-multi|2|Olive grove|Olive tree}}{{Speciesbox| name = Olive
Pleistocene to recent, {{Fossil range>0.06|0}}| image = Olivesfromjordan.jpg| image_caption = Olea europaea| genus = Olea| species = europaeaCarl Linnaeus>L.| range_map = Olea europaea range.svg| range_map_caption = Distribution map, with Olea europaea subsp. europaea shown in green}}{{Special characters}}The olive, known by the botanical name Olea europaea, meaning "European olive", is a species of small tree in the family Oleaceae, found in the Mediterranean Basin from Portugal to the Levant, the Arabian Peninsula, and southern Asia as far east as China, as well as the Canary Islands and Réunion. The species is cultivated in many places and considered naturalized in all the countries of the Mediterranean coast, as well as in Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Java, Norfolk Island, California, and Bermuda.WEB,weblink Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families, Olea europaea, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, December 5, 2014, WEB,weblink Biota of North America Program, Olea europaea (map), December 5, 2014, Olea europaea is the type species for the genus Olea.The olive's fruit, also called the olive, is of major agricultural importance in the Mediterranean region as the source of olive oil; it is one of the core ingredients in Mediterranean cuisine. The tree and its fruit give their name to the plant family, which also includes species such as lilacs, jasmine, Forsythia, and the true ash trees (Fraxinus).


The word "olive" derives from Latin ' ("olive fruit", "olive tree"),{{L&S|oliva|ref}} possibly through Etruscan 𐌄𐌋𐌄𐌉𐌅𐌀 (eleiva) from the archaic Proto-Greek form *ἐλαίϝα (*elaíwa) (Classic Greek ', "olive fruit", "olive tree").OLD s.v. {{LSJ|e)lai/a|ἐλαία|ref}}The word "oil" originally meant "olive oil", from ',{{L&S|oleum|ref}} (', "olive oil").Ernout & Meillet s.v. .{{LSJ|e)lai/a|ἐλαία}}, {{LSJ|e)/laio,|ἔλαιον|ref}} Also in multiple other languages the word for "oil" ultimately derives from the name of this tree and its fruit.The oldest attested forms of the Greek words are the Mycenaean , ', and , ' or , , written in the Linear B syllabic script.WEB,weblink Mycenaean (Linear b) – English Glossary,, WEB, The Linear B word e-ra-wa,weblink WEB, The Linear B word e-ra-wo,weblink Palaeolexicon. Word study tool of ancient languages, WEB,weblink e-ra3-wo, WEB, Raymoure, K.A.,weblink e-ra-wo, Minoan Linear A & Mycenaean Linear B, Deaditerranean,


(File:Olea europaea - Köhler–s Medizinal-Pflanzen-229.jpg|thumb|19th-century illustrations)The olive tree, Olea europaea, is an evergreen tree or shrub native to the Mediterranean, Asia, and Africa. It is short and squat, and rarely exceeds {{convert|8|-|15|m|ft|abbr=on}} in height. 'Pisciottana', a unique variety comprising 40,000 trees found only in the area around Pisciotta in the Campania region of southern Italy often exceeds this, with correspondingly large trunk diameters. The silvery green leaves are oblong, measuring {{convert|4|–|10|cm|in|abbr=on}} long and {{convert|1|–|3|cm|in|abbr=on}} wide. The trunk is typically gnarled and twisted.BOOK, Eddo Rugini, Luciana Baldoni, Rosario Muleo, Luca Sebastiani, The Olive Tree Genome,weblink 2016, Springer, 978-3-319-48887-5, 14, The small, white, feathery flowers, with ten-cleft calyx and corolla, two stamens, and bifid stigma, are borne generally on the previous year's wood, in racemes springing from the axils of the leaves.The fruit is a small drupe {{convert|1|–|2.5|cm|in|abbr=on}} long, thinner-fleshed and smaller in wild plants than in orchard cultivars. Olives are harvested in the green to purple stage.BOOK,weblink 129, Olives and Olive Oil as Functional Foods: Bioactivity, Chemistry and Processing, Apostolos Kiritsakis and Fereidoon Shahidi, John Wiley & Sons, 2017, 978-1-119-13531-9, Canned black olives have often been artificially blackenedBOOK,weblink 82, The Chemical Story of Olive Oil: From Grove to Table, Richard Blatchly, Zeynep Delen, and Patricia O'Hara, Royal Society of Chemistry, 2017, 978-1-78801-230-0, (see below on processing) and may contain the chemical ferrous gluconate to improve the appearance.BOOK,weblink 107, Environmental Determinants of Human Health, Jozef M. Pacyna and Elisabeth G. Pacyna, Springer, 2016, 978-3-319-43142-0, Olea europaea contains a seed commonly referred to in American English as a pit or a rock, and in British English as a stone.BOOK,weblink 113, A Complete Course in Canning and Related Processes: Volume 3 Processing Procedures for Canned Food Products, Susan Featherstone, Woodhead Publishing, 2015, 978-0-85709-687-6,


The six natural subspecies of Olea europaea are distributed over a wide range: The subspecies O. e. maroccana and O. e. cerasiformis are respectively hexaploid and tetraploid.Wild growing forms of the olive are sometimes treated as the species Olea oleaster.The trees referred to as white and black olives in Southeast Asia are not actually olives, but species of Canarium.WEB,weblink Buah Ca-na, Chinese White Olive, Singapore National Parks Board, en, 2019-02-14,


Hundreds of cultivars of the olive tree are known.{{citation|title=World Olive Encyclopedia|publisher=International Olive Council|year=1996|isbn=978-8401618819}}BOOK, Lanza, Fabrizia, Olive: A Global History, 2012, Reaktion Books, 978-1-86189-972-9, 106–110, An olive's cultivar has a significant impact on its colour, size, shape, and growth characteristics, as well as the qualities of olive oil. Olive cultivars may be used primarily for oil, eating, or both. Olives cultivated for consumption are generally referred to as table olives.BOOK, Garrido Fernandez, A., Fernandez-Diez, M.J., Adams, M.R., Table Olives: Production and Processing, 1997, Springer, 978-0-412-71810-6, 23–45, Since many olive cultivars are self-sterile or nearly so, they are generally planted in pairs with a single primary cultivar and a secondary cultivar selected for its ability to fertilize the primary one. In recent times, efforts have been directed at producing hybrid cultivars with qualities useful to farmers, such as resistance to disease, quick growth, and larger or more consistent crops.



Fossil evidence indicates the olive tree had its origins some 20–40 million years ago in the Oligocene, in what is now corresponding to Italy and the eastern Mediterranean Basin.BOOK, Olive Oil. Chemistry and Technology, Boskou, D., AOCS Press, 1996, BOOK,weblink Olives: Volume 18 of Crop Production Science in Horticulture (History of Olive Growing, page 1), Therios, Ioannis Nikolaos, 2009, CABI, 978-1-84593-620-4, The olive plant later was first cultivated some 7,000 years ago in Mediterranean regions.BOOK, Di Giovacchino, Luciano, Handbook of Olive Oil: Analysis & Properties, 2nd, Springer Science & Business Media, New York, 2013, 3, 57, The edible olive seems to have coexisted with humans for about 5,000 to 6,000 years, going back to the early Bronze Age (3150 to 1200 BC). Its origin can be traced to the Levant based on written tablets, olive pits, and wood fragments found in ancient tombs.JOURNAL, Vossen, Paul, Olive Oil: History, Production, and Characteristics of the World's Classic Oils, HortScience, 2007, 42, 5, 1093–1100, 10.21273/HORTSCI.42.5.1093, BOOK, Lanza, Fabrizia, Olive: a global history, 2011, Reaktion Books, 978-1-86189-972-9, London, 15, The immediate ancestry of the cultivated olive is unknown. Fossil Olea pollen has been found in Macedonia and other places around the Mediterranean, indicating that this genus is an original element of the Mediterranean flora. Fossilized leaves of Olea were found in the palaeosols of the volcanic Greek island of Santorini (Thera) and were dated about 37,000 BP. Imprints of larvae of olive whitefly Aleurolobus (Aleurodes) olivinus were found on the leaves. The same insect is commonly found today on olive leaves, showing that the plant-animal co-evolutionary relations have not changed since that time.Friedrich W.L. (1978). Fossil plants from Weichselian interstadials, Santorini (Greece) II, published in the "Thera and the Aegean World II", London, pp. 109–128. Retrieved on 2011-12-07. Other leaves found on the same island are dated back to 60,000 BP, making them the oldest known olives from the Mediterranean.WEB,weblink Mediterranean Museums of Olive,, 2016-05-22, As far back as 3000 BC, olives were grown commercially in Crete; they may have been the source of the wealth of the Minoan civilization.JOURNAL, Gooch, Ellen,weblink 10+1 Things you may not know about olive oil, Epikouria Magazine, Fall/Spring, 2005, December 5, 2014,

Outside the Mediterranean

Olives are not native to the Americas. Spanish colonists brought the olive to the New World, where its cultivation prospered in present-day Peru, Chile and Argentina . The first seedlings from Spain were planted in Lima by Antonio de Rivera in 1560. Olive tree cultivation quickly spread along the valleys of South America's dry Pacific coast where the climate was similar to the Mediterranean.BOOK, The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequencies of 1492, Crosby, Alfred W., 73, 2003, Praeger, Santa Barbara, CA, 978-0-27598-092-4, Spanish missionaries established the tree in the 18th century in California. It was first cultivated at Mission San Diego de Alcalá in 1769 or later around 1795. Orchards were started at other missions, but in 1838, an inspection found only two olive orchards in California. Cultivation for oil gradually became a highly successful commercial venture from the 1860s onward.JOURNAL, Carter, Nancy Carol,weblink 2008, San Diego Olives: Origins of a California Industry, The Journal of San Diego History, 54, 3, 138–140, In Japan, the first successful planting of olive trees happened in 1908 on Shodo Island, which became the cradle of olive cultivation.WEB,weblink Shodoshima Town,, An estimated 865 million olive trees are in the world today (as of 2005), and the vast majority of these are found in Mediterranean countries, with traditionally marginal areas accounting for no more than 25% of olive-planted area and 10% of oil production.WEB,weblink Olive Growing and Nursery Production, International Olive Council, December 5, 2014,

Symbolic connotations

{{See also|Peace symbols}}Olive oil has long been considered sacred. The olive branch was often a symbol of abundance, glory, and peace. The leafy branches of the olive tree were ritually offered to deities and powerful figures as emblems of benediction and purification, and they were used to crown the victors of friendly games and bloody wars. Today, olive oil is still used in many religious ceremonies. Over the years, the olive has also been used to symbolize wisdom, fertility, power, and purity.

Ancient Israel and Hebrew Bible

The olive was one of the main elements in ancient Israelite cuisine. Olive oil was used for not only food and cooking, but also lighting, sacrificial offerings, ointment, and anointment for priestly or royal office.Macdonald, Nathan (2008). What Did the Ancient Israelites Eat?. William B. Eerdmans. pp. 23–24. {{ISBN|978-0-8028-6298-3}}.The olive tree is one of the first plants mentioned in the Hebrew Bible (the Christian Old Testament), and one of the most significant. An olive branch (or leaf, depending on translation) was brought back to Noah by a dove to demonstrate that the flood was over(Book of Genesis, 8:11). The olive is listed in Deuteronomy 8:8 as one of the seven species that are noteworthy products of the Land of Israel.BOOK, Eat and Be Satisfied: A Social History of Jewish Food, Cooper, John, 1993, Jason Aronson Inc., New Jersey, 978-0-87668-316-3, 4–9, . See also both the Hebrew and English text in: {{Bibleverse||Deut|8:8|HE}}

Ancient Greece

The ancient Greeks smeared olive oil on their bodies and hair as a matter of grooming and good health.Olive oil was used to anoint kings and athletes in ancient Greece. It was burnt in the sacred lamps of temples and was the "eternal flame" of the original Olympic games. Victors in these games were crowned with its leaves.In Homer's Odyssey, Odysseus crawls beneath two shoots of olive that grow from a single stock,Homer, Odyssey, book 5". and in the Iliad, (XVII.53ff) is a metaphoric description of a lone olive tree in the mountains, by a spring; the Greeks observed that the olive rarely thrives at a distance from the sea, which in Greece invariably means up mountain slopes. Greek myth attributed to the primordial culture-hero Aristaeus the understanding of olive husbandry, along with cheese-making and bee-keeping."He learned from the Nymphai how to curdle milk, to make bee-hives, and to cultivate olive-trees, and was the first to instruct men in these matters." (Diodorus Siculus, 4.81.1). Olive was one of the woods used to fashion the most primitive Greek cult figures, called xoana, referring to their wooden material; they were reverently preserved for centuries.Toward the end of the 2nd century AD, the traveler Pausanias saw many such archaic cult figures. It was purely a matter of local pride that the Athenians claimed that the olive grew first in Athens."Indeed it is said that at that [ancient] time there were no olives anywhere save at Athens." (Herodotus, 5.82.1). In an archaic Athenian foundation myth, Athena won the patronage of Attica from Poseidon with the gift of the olive. According to the fourth-century BC father of botany, Theophrastus, olive trees ordinarily attained an age around 200 years,Theophrastus, On the Causes of Plants, 4.13.5. noted by Isager, Signe & Skydsgaard, Jens Erik (1992). Ancient Greek Agriculture, An introduction. Routledge. p. 38. {{ISBN|0415001641}}. he mentions that the very olive tree of Athena still grew on the Acropolis; it was still to be seen there in the second century AD;"...which is still shown in the Pandroseion" (pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheke, 3.14.1). and when Pausanias was shown it, c. 170 AD, he reported "Legend also says that when the Persians fired Athens the olive was burnt down, but on the very day it was burnt it grew again to the height of two cubits."Pausanias, Description of Greece 1.27.1. Indeed, olive suckers sprout readily from the stump, and the great age of some existing olive trees shows that it was perfectly possible that the olive tree of the Acropolis dated to the Bronze Age. The olive was sacred to Athena and appeared on the Athenian coinage.Theophrastus, in On the Causes of Plants, does not give as systematic and detailed an account of olive husbandry as he does of the vine, but he makes clear (in 1.16.10) that the cultivated olive must be vegetatively propagated; indeed, the pits give rise to thorny, wild-type olives, spread far and wide by birds. Theophrastus reports how the bearing olive can be grafted on the wild olive, for which the Greeks had a separate name, kotinos.Isager, Signe & Skydsgaard, Jens Erik (1992). Ancient Greek Agriculture, An introduction. Routledge. p. 35. {{ISBN|0415001641}} In his Enquiry into Plants (2.1.2–4) he states that the olive can be propagated from a piece of the trunk, the root, a twig, or a stake.BOOK, Hort, Sir Arthur, Theophrastus Enquiry into Plants, 1916, William Heinemann, 107,weblink

Ancient Rome

File:Roman fresco of a woman wearing a garland of olives, from Herculaneum.jpg|thumb|Roman fresco of a woman with red hair wearing a garland of olives, from Herculaneum, made sometime before the city's destruction in 79 AD by Mount VesuviusMount VesuviusAccording to Pliny the Elder, a vine, a fig tree, and an olive tree grew in the middle of the Roman Forum; the latter was planted to provide shade (the garden plot was recreated in the 20th century).WEB,weblink Ficus Ruminalis,, The Roman poet Horace mentions it in reference to his own diet, which he describes as very simple: "As for me, olives, endives, and smooth mallows provide sustenance.""Me pascunt olivae, me cichorea levesque malvae." Horace, Odes 1.31.15, c. 30 BC Lord Monboddo comments on the olive in 1779 as one of the foods preferred by the ancients and as one of the most perfect foods.Letter from Lord Monboddo to John Hope, 29 April 1779; reprinted by William Knight 1900 {{ISBN|1-85506-207-0}}File:21-alimenti, olio,Taccuino Sanitatis, Casanatense 4182..jpg|thumb|Storing olives on Dere Street; Tacuinum SanitatisTacuinum SanitatisVitruvius describes of the use of charred olive wood in tying together walls and foundations in his (wikiquote:Vitruvius#De architectura (The Ten Books On Architecture) (~ 15BC)|De Architectura):The thickness of the wall should, in my opinion, be such that armed men meeting on top of it may pass one another without interference. In the thickness there should be set a very close succession of ties made of charred olive wood, binding the two faces of the wall together like pins, to give it lasting endurance. For that is a material which neither decay, nor the weather, nor time can harm, but even though buried in the earth or set in the water it keeps sound and useful forever. And so not only city walls but substructures in general and all walls that require a thickness like that of a city wall, will be long in falling to decay if tied in this manner.Pollio, Vitruvius (1914). The Ten Books on Architecture. Harvard University Press, Book 1, Ch. V, Sec. 3, p. 22

New Testament

The Mount of Olives east of Jerusalem is mentioned several times in the New Testament. The Allegory of the Olive Tree in St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans refers to the scattering and gathering of Israel. It compares the Israelites to a tame olive tree and the Gentiles to a wild olive branch. The olive tree itself, as well as olive oil and olives, play an important role in the Bible.Balfour, John Hutton (1885). "Plants of the Bible". T. Nelson and sons


The olive tree and olive oil are mentioned seven times in the Quran,BOOK, Virgin Olive Oil, Hassouna, Viktoria, 23, 2010,weblink Books on Demand, 978-3839175057, and the olive is praised as a precious fruit. Olive tree and olive-oil health benefits have been propounded in Prophetic medicine. Muhammad is reported to have said: "Take oil of olive and massage with it – it is a blessed tree" (Sunan al-Darimi, 69:103).Olives are substitutes for dates (if not available) during Ramadan fasting, and olive tree leaves are used as incense in some Muslim Mediterranean countries.WEB,weblink Olive Leaf Burning,,

Oldest known trees

Olive trees in the groves around the Mediterranean Sea are centuries old, with some dated to 2000 years. The olive tree on the island of Brijuni (Brioni), Istria in Croatia, has a radiocarbon dating age of about 1,600 years. It still gives fruit (about {{convert|30|kg|lb|abbr=on|disp=or}} per year), which is made into olive oil.WEB,weblink Ancient Olive Tree, Brijuni National Park, 27 May 2016, An olive tree in west Athens, named "Plato's Olive Tree", is thought to be a remnant of the grove where Plato's Academy was situated, making it an estimated 2,400 years old.WEB,weblink Plato's Sacred Olive Tree Vanished, Vasilopoulos, Costas, Olive Oil Times, 17 January 2013, 14 October 2017, The tree comprised a cavernous trunk from which a few branches were still sprouting in 1975, when a traffic accident caused a bus to uproot it. Following that, the trunk was preserved and displayed in the nearby Agricultural University of Athens. In 2013, it was reported that the remaining part of the trunk was uprooted and stolen, allegedly to serve as firewood. A supposedly older tree, the "Peisistratos Tree", is located by the banks of the Cephisus River, in the municipality of Agioi Anargyroi, and is said to be a remnant of an olive grove that was planted by Athenian tyrant Peisistratos in the sixth century BC.{{citation needed|date=October 2017}} Numerous ancient olive trees also exist near Pelion in Greece. The age of an olive tree in Crete, the Finix Olive, is claimed to be over 2,000 years old; this estimate is based on archaeological evidence around the tree. The olive tree of Vouves, also in Crete, has an age estimated between 2000 and 4000 years.WEB,weblink Crete Lore,, 14 October 2017, An olive tree called Farga d'Arió in Ulldecona, Catalonia, Spain, has been estimated (with laser-perimetry methods) to date back to 314 AD, which would mean that it was planted when Constantine the Great was Roman emperor.ARA, June 18, 2015. ARA-diari (2015-06-18). Retrieved on 2015-06-20.Some Italian olive trees are believed to date back to Ancient Rome (8th century BC to 5th century AD), although identifying progenitor trees in ancient sources is difficult. Several other trees of about 1,000 years old are within the same garden. The 15th-century trees of Olivo della Linza, at Alliste in the Province of Lecce in Apulia on the Italian mainland, were noted by Bishop Ludovico de Pennis during his pastoral visit to the Diocese of Nardò-Gallipoli in 1452.Diocese of Nardò–Gallipoli. GCatholic.orgThe town of Bshaale, Lebanon claims to have the oldest olive trees in the world (4000 BC for the oldest), but no scientific study supports these claims. Other trees in the towns of Amioun appear to be at least 1,500 years old.WEB, Al-BAB, Ancient Olive Tree,weblink August 2011, BOOK, Drinkwater, Carol, The Olive Route, 2006, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 978-0-297-84789-2, Throughout Israel and Palestine, dozens of ancient olive trees are found with estimated ages of 1,600–2,000 years; however, these estimates could not be supported by current scientific practices.Kislew, M.; Tabak, Y. and Simhoni, O. ”Identifying the Names of Fruits in Ancient Rabbinic Literature”, Leshonenu (Hebrew), vol. 69, p. 279 Ancient trees include two giant olive trees in Arraba and five trees in Deir Hanna, both in the Galilee region, which have been determined to be over 3,000 years old, although no available data support the credibility of the study that produced these age estimates, and as such, the 3000 years age estimate can not be considered valid. All seven trees continue to produce olives.Several trees in the Garden of Gethsemane (from the Hebrew words gat shemanim or olive press) in Jerusalem are claimed to date back to the purported time of Jesus.Lewington, A. & Parker, E. (1999). Ancient Trees., pp. 110–113, London: Collins & Brown Ltd. {{ISBN|1-85585-704-9}} A study conducted by the National Research Council of Italy in 2012 used carbon dating on older parts of the trunks of three trees from Gethsemane and came up with the dates of 1092, 1166, and 1198 AD, while DNA tests show that the trees were originally planted from the same parent plant.NEWS, Jerusalem olive trees among oldest in world, Haaretz,weblink October 20, 2012, Reuters, According to molecular analysis, the tested trees showed the same allelic profile at all microsatellite loci analyzed which furthermore may indicate attempt to keep the lineage of an older species intact.JOURNAL, 24841957, Observation of eight ancient olive trees (Olea europaea L.) growing in the Garden of Gethsemane, Comptes Rendus Biologies, 337, 5, 311–317, 2014, Petruccelli, R, Giordano, C, Salvatici, M. C., Capozzoli, L, Ciaccheri, L, Pazzini, M, Lain, O, Testolin, R, Cimato, A, 10.1016/j.crvi.2014.03.002, However, Bernabei writes, "All the tree trunks are hollow inside so that the central, older wood is missing . . . In the end, only three from a total of eight olive trees could be successfully dated. The dated ancient olive trees do, however, not allow any hypothesis to be made with regard to the age of the remaining five giant olive trees."JOURNAL, 10.1016/j.jas.2014.10.011, The age of the olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane, Journal of Archaeological Science, 53, 43–48, 2015, Bernabei, Mauro, Babcox concludes, "The roots of the eight oldest trees are possibly much older. Visiting guides to the garden often state that they are two thousand years old."JOURNAL, 10.1525/dcqr.2014.3.2.111, Every Olive Tree in the Garden of Gethsemane, Departures in Critical Qualitative Research, 3, 2, 111–115, 2014, Babcox, Wendy,weblink The 2,000-year-oldMAGAZINE, 2,000-year-old Trees still producing olives,weblink The Malta Independent, 14 May 2016, Bidni olive trees on the island of Malta, which have been confirmed through carbon dating,NEWS, Race to save endemic olive tree intensifies,weblink The Times of Malta, 10 August 2016, have been protected since 1933,MAGAZINE, List of Historical Trees Having an Antiquarian Importance,weblink Government of Malta, 14 May 2016, and are also listed in UNESCO's Database of National Cultural Heritage Laws.MAGAZINE, List of Historical Trees Having an Antiquarian Importance,weblink UNESCO, 14 May 2016, In 2011, after recognising their historical and landscape value, and in recognition of the fact that "only 20 trees remain from 40 at the beginning of the 20th century",MAGAZINE, Rural Development Programme for Malta 2007–2013,weblink Ministry for Resources and Rural Affairs, 2009, 10 May 2016, Maltese authorities declared the ancient Bidni olive grove at Bidnija, limits of Mosta, as a Tree Protected Area, in accordance with the provisions of the Trees and Woodlands Protection Regulations, 2011, as per Government Notice number 473/11.MAGAZINE, Trees and Woodlands Protection Regulations, 2011,weblink The Government of Malta Gazette, 2011, 10 May 2016, File:Old olive tree in Maslina KaÅ¡tela, Croatia.jpg|KaÅ¡tela, CroatiaFile:Ulivone di Canneto Sabino.jpg|Canneto Sabino, ItalyFile:Olive tree Karystos2.jpg|Karystos, Euboia, Greece


{{See also|Olive oil|Mediterranean cuisine}}The olive tree, Olea europaea, has been cultivated for olive oil, fine wood, olive leaf, and the olive fruit. About 90% of all harvested olives are turned into oil, while about 10% are used as table olives. The olive is one of the "trinity" or "triad" of basic ingredients in Mediterranean cuisine, the other two being wheat for bread, pasta, and couscous, and the grape for wine.BOOK, The Emergence of Civilization; The Cyclades and the Aegean in the Third Millennium B.C, Renfrew, Colin, Colin Renfrew, 1972, Taylor & Francis, 978-0977409464, 280, BOOK, Essid, Mohamed Yassine, Chapter 2. History of Mediterranean Food, MediTerra: The Mediterranean Diet for Sustainable Regional Development, Presses de Sciences Po, 2012, 978-2724612486, 29,weblink (File:Olives in cup.jpg|thumb|Olives with herbs)(File:Grüne Oliven.jpg|thumb|Green olives)(File:Schwarze Oliven.jpg|thumb|Black olives)

Table olives

Table olives are classified by the IOC into three groups according to the degree of ripeness achieved before harvesting:WEB,weblink About Olives, International Olive Council, December 5, 2014,
  1. Green olives are picked when they have obtained full size, but before the ripening cycle has begun; they are usually shades of green to yellow.
  2. Semiripe or turning-colour olives are picked at the beginning of the ripening cycle, when the colour has begun to change from green to multicolour shades of red to brown. Only the skin is coloured, as the flesh of the fruit lacks pigmentation at this stage, unlike that of ripe olives.
  3. Black olives or ripe olives are picked at full maturity when fully ripe. They are found in assorted shades of purple to brown to black. Most black olives are, in fact, not ripe olives, but are green olives that have been chemically treated to blacken them.WEB, The Bitter Truth About Olives, Rebecca, Rupp,weblink

Traditional fermentation and curing

File:GraberOliveHouseVatRoom.JPG|thumb|An olive vat room used for curing at Graber Olive HouseGraber Olive HouseRaw or fresh olives are naturally very bitter; to make them palatable, olives must be cured and fermented, thereby removing oleuropein, a bitter phenolic compound that can reach levels of 14% of dry matter in young olives.JOURNAL, 21179340, 3002804, 2010, Omar, S.H., Oleuropein in olive and its pharmacological effects, Scientia Pharmaceutica, 78, 2, 133–154, 10.3797/scipharm.0912-18,
In addition to oleuropein, other phenolic compounds render freshly picked olives unpalatable and must also be removed or lowered in quantity through curing and fermentation. Generally speaking, phenolics reach their peak in young fruit and are converted as the fruit matures. Once ripening occurs, the levels of phenolics sharply decline through their conversion to other organic products which render some cultivars edible immediately. One example of an edible olive native to the island of Thasos is the throubes black olive, which when allowed to ripen in the sun, shrivel, and fall from the tree, is edible.WEB,weblink Throubes, Olives South Africa, 2017-03-22, MAGAZINE, Eat Like a Man,weblink Esquire, 22 September 2011, 2010-09-08,
The curing process may take from a few days, with lye, to a few months with brine or salt packing.WEB, Sylvia, Yada, Linda, Harris,weblink Olives: Safe Methods for Home Pickling, University of California, Division of Agricultural and Natural Resources, December 6, 2014, With the exception of California style and salt-cured olives, all methods of curing involve a major fermentation involving bacteria and yeast that is of equal importance to the final table olive product.Kailis, Stanley G. & Harris, David John (2007). Producing table olives. Landlinks Press. Traditional cures, using the natural microflora on the fruit to induce fermentation, lead to two important outcomes: the leaching out and breakdown of oleuropein and other unpalatable phenolic compounds, and the generation of favourable metabolites from bacteria and yeast, such as organic acids, probiotics, glycerol, and esters, which affect the sensory properties of the final table olives. Mixed bacterial/yeast olive fermentations may have probiotic qualities.JOURNAL, 10.1016/j.foodres.2012.10.004,weblink Screening of lactic acid bacteria isolated from fermented table olives with probiotic potential, Food Research International, 50, 135–142, 2013, Bautista-Gallego, J., Arroyo-López, F.N., Rantsiou, K., Jiménez-Díaz, R., Garrido-Fernández, A., Cocolin, L., JOURNAL, 10.1016/j.lwt.2011.01.029, Characterization of yeasts from Portuguese brined olives, with a focus on their potentially probiotic behavior, LWT – Food Science and Technology, 44, 6, 1349, 2011, Silva, T., Reto, M., Sol, M., Peito, A., Peres, C.M., Peres, C., Malcata, F. Xavier, Lactic acid is the most important metabolite, as it lowers the pH, acting as a natural preservative against the growth of unwanted pathogenic species. The result is table olives which can be stored without refrigeration. Fermentations dominated by lactic acid bacteria are, therefore, the most suitable method of curing olives. Yeast-dominated fermentations produce a different suite of metabolites which provide poorer preservation, so they are corrected with an acid such as citric acid in the final processing stage to provide microbial stability.The many types of preparations for table olives depend on local tastes and traditions. The most important commercial examples are listed below.Spanish or Sevillian type (olives with fermentation): Most commonly applied to green olive preparation, around 60% of all the world's table olives are produced with this method.JOURNAL, 22783248, 3390769, 2012, Botta, C, Microbial dynamics and biodiversity in table olive fermentation: Culture-dependent and -independent approaches, Frontiers in Microbiology, 3, 245, Cocolin, L, 10.3389/fmicb.2012.00245, Olives are soaked in lye (dilute NaOH, 2–4%) for 8–10 hours to hydrolyse the oleuropein. They are usually considered "treated" when the lye has penetrated two-thirds of the way into the fruit. They are then washed once or several times in water to remove the caustic solution and transferred to fermenting vessels full of brine at typical concentrations of 8–12% NaCl.University of Catania PhD in Food Science and Technology, Food Microbiology: "Isolation and characterization of yeasts isolated from naturally fermented olives with brine bioprotective function" Laboratory of Food Microbiology, DISPA, Agrarian Faculty. The brine is changed on a regular basis to help remove the phenolic compounds. Fermentation is carried out by the natural microbiota present on the olives that survive the lye treatment process. Many organisms are involved, usually reflecting the local conditions or "Terroir" of the olives. During a typical fermentation gram-negative enterobacteria flourish in small numbers at first, but are rapidly outgrown by lactic acid bacteria species such as Leuconostoc mesenteroides, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus brevis and Pediococcus damnosus. These bacteria produce lactic acid to help lower the pH of the brine and therefore stabilize the product against unwanted pathogenic species. A diversity of yeasts then accumulate in sufficient numbers to help complete the fermentation alongside the lactic acid bacteria. Yeasts commonly mentioned include the teleomorphs Pichia anomala, Pichia membranifaciens, Debaryomyces hansenii and Kluyveromyces marxianus. Once fermented, the olives are placed in fresh brine and acid corrected, to be ready for market.Sicilian or Greek type (olives with fermentation): Applied to green, semiripe and ripe olives, they are almost identical to the Spanish type fermentation process, but the lye treatment process is skipped and the olives are placed directly in fermentation vessels full of brine (8–12% NaCl). The brine is changed on a regular basis to help remove the phenolic compounds. As the caustic treatment is avoided, lactic acid bacteria are only present in similar numbers to yeast and appear to be outdone by the abundant yeasts found on untreated olives. As very little acid is produced by the yeast fermentation, lactic, acetic, or citric acid is often added to the fermentation stage to stabilize the process.Picholine or directly-brined type (olives with fermentation): Applied to green, semiripe, or ripe olives, they are soaked in lye typically for longer periods than Spanish style (e.g. 10–72 hours) until the solution has penetrated three-quarters of the way into the fruit. They are then washed and immediately brined and acid corrected with citric acid to achieve microbial stability. Fermentation still occurs carried out by acidogenic yeast and bacteria, but is more subdued than other methods. The brine is changed on a regular basis to help remove the phenolic compounds and a series of progressively stronger concentrations of salt are added until the product is fully stabilized and ready to be eaten.Water-cured type (olives with fermentation): Applied to green, semiripe, or ripe olives, these are soaked in water or weak brine and this solution is changed on a daily basis for 10–14 days. The oleuropein is naturally dissolved and leached into the water and removed during a continual soak-wash cycle. Fermentation takes place during the water treatment stage and involves a mixed yeast/bacteria ecosystem. Sometimes, the olives are lightly cracked with a hammer or a stone to trigger fermentation and speed up the fermentation process. Once debittered, the olives are brined to concentrations of 8–12% NaCl and acid corrected, and are then ready to eat.Salt-cured type (olives with minor fermentation): Applied only to ripe olives, they are usually produced in Morocco, Turkey, and other eastern Mediterranean countries. Once picked, the olives are vigorously washed and packed in alternating layers with salt. The high concentrations of salt draw the moisture out of olives, dehydrating and shriveling them until they look somewhat analogous to a raisin. Once packed in salt, fermentation is minimal and only initiated by the most halophilic yeast species such as Debaryomyces hansenii. Once cured, they are sold in their natural state without any additives. So-called oil-cured olives are cured in salt, and then soaked in oil.WEB, Oil-Cured Olives: A Kalamata Substitute?,weblink Cooks Illustrated, May 2016, 27 November 2016, California or "artificial ripening" type (olives without fermentation): Applied to green and semiripe olives, they are placed in lye and soaked. Upon their removal, they are washed in water injected with compressed air. This process is repeated several times until both oxygen and lye have soaked through to the pit. The repeated, saturated exposure to air oxidises the skin and flesh of the fruit, turning it black in an artificial process that mimics natural ripening. Once fully oxidised or "blackened", they are brined and acid corrected and are then ready for eating.

Olive wood

Olive wood is very hard and is prized for its durability, colour, high combustion temperature, and interesting grain patterns. Because of the commercial importance of the fruit, and the slow growth and relatively small size of the tree, olive wood and its products are relatively expensive. Common uses of the wood include: kitchen utensils, carved wooden bowls, cutting boards, fine furniture, and decorative items.The yellow or light greenish-brown wood is often finely veined with a darker tint; being very hard and close-grained, it is valued by woodworkers.BOOK, Edible Trees, 1969, AnVi OpenSource Knowledge Trust,weblink

Ornamental uses

In modern landscape design olive trees are frequently used as ornamental features for their distinctively gnarled trunks and silvery gray foliage.WEB,weblink Genius Garden Ideas: 10 Landscapes with Olive Trees,, 29 July 2018, 2018-07-29,


File:Olive niche.jpg|thumb| Distribution of olive trees over the Mediterranean Basin.Oteros, Jose (2014). Modelización del ciclo fenológico reproductor del olivo. PhD Thesis. University of Córdoba (Spain)University of Córdoba (Spain)The earliest evidence for the domestication of olives comes from the Chalcolithic period archaeological site of Teleilat el Ghassul in what is today modern Jordan. Farmers in ancient times believed that olive trees would not grow well if planted more than a certain distance from the sea; Theophrastus gives 300 stadia ({{convert|55.6|km|mi|disp=or|abbr=on}}) as the limit. Modern experience does not always confirm this, and, though showing a preference for the coast, they have long been grown further inland in some areas with suitable climates, particularly in the southwestern Mediterranean (Iberia, northwest Africa) where winters are mild.(File:Olivares de la campiña estepeña.jpg|thumb|Olive plantation in Andalucía, Spain)Olives are now cultivated in many regions of the world with Mediterranean climates, such as South Africa, Chile, Peru, Australia, and California and in areas with temperate climates such as New Zealand, under irrigation in the Cuyo region in Argentina which has a desert climate. They are also grown in the Córdoba Province, Argentina, which has a temperate climate with rainy summers and dry winters (Cwa).Enciclopedia Universal Europeo Americana. Volume 15. Madrid (1981). Espasa-Calpe S.A. {{ISBN|84-239-4500-6}} (Complete Encyclopedia) and {{ISBN|84-239-4515-4}} The climate in Argentina changes the external characteristics of the plant but the fruit keeps its original features.JOURNAL, Cavagnaro P.; J. Juárez; M. Bauza & R.W. Masuelli, Discriminación de variedades de olivo a través del uso de caracteres morfológigos y de marcadores moleculares, 2001, Agriscienta, 18, 27–35, The northernmost olive grove is placed in Anglesey, an island off the north west coast of Wales, in the United Kingdom:WEB, First Welsh olive grove planted on Anglesey,weblink Wales Online, 2011-12-11, 2007-04-30, but it is too early to say if the growing will be successful, having been planted in 2006.File:Olives au marche de Toulon p1040238.jpg|thumb|right|Olives at a market in Toulon, FranceFrance

Growth and propagation

File:Olive Grove prunings in neat rows. Ostuni, Puglia.jpg|thumb|left|Olive grove prunings in neat rows at Ostuni, ApuliaApuliaOlive trees show a marked preference for calcareous soils, flourishing best on limestone slopes and crags, and coastal climate conditions. They grow in any light soil, even on clay if well drained, but in rich soils, they are predisposed to disease and produce poorer oil than in poorer soil. (This was noted by Pliny the Elder.) Olives like hot weather and sunny positions without any shade, while temperatures below {{convert|-10|C|F}} may injure even a mature tree. They tolerate drought well, due to their sturdy and extensive root systems. Olive trees can live for several centuries and can remain productive for as long if they are pruned correctly and regularly.Only a handful of olive varieties can be used to cross-pollinate. 'Pendolino' olive trees are partially self-fertile, but pollenizers are needed for a large fruit crop. Other compatible olive tree pollenizers include 'Leccino' and 'Maurino'. 'Pendolino' olive trees are used extensively as pollenizers in large olive tree groves.File:Olive Phenology.png|thumb|Phenological development of olive flowering, following BBCH standard scale. a-50, b-51, c-54, d-57, (15% open flowers); g-67, (

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