The historical development of olive growing began in the Mediterranean, in Jordan, ancient Egypt and the ancient empires.
Domestication of the wild olive
Historical remains indicate that the wild olive was domesticated about 7000 years ago in present-day Syria. The Phoenicians were among the first to dedicate themselves to the cultivation of olives. Historical records testify to the olive oil trade in ancient Greece and its wealth to the Greek population.
The earliest surviving olive oil
The olive oil production is assumed to have started before 4000 BC, and the earliest surviving amphorae date to 3500 BC.
The oldest olive tree in the world
Did you know that olive trees have a very long lifespan? The average lifespan of the olive tree is around 500 years. The olive tree of Vouves in Greece is believed to be over 2,000 years old, making it one of the oldest olive trees in the world, and it still produces olives today. Even if you neglect the olive tree for a hundred years, an olive tree can survive if grown in the appropriate growing conditions.
Many writers wrote on the importance of olive growing and olive oil health benefits through ancient times. For example, you can see olive oil mentioned amongst others in the work of Lucius Junius Moderatus Columella, Gaius Plinius Secundus, Marcus Valerius Martialis. In addition, in many religions, the olive is mentioned as a sacred tree.
The Roman Empire already had olive studies and manuals (De Re Rustica), which included all the essential elements that are still the foundation on which modern olive growing and production developed. Olive oil was used for its nutritional value and as a medicine for body massage and hygiene. In contrast, Romans used inferior quality olive oils for oil lamps.
The 18th and 19th centuries
Demand for olive oils increased in both European and non-European countries in the 18th and 19th centuries. As a result, many olive groves were rejuvenated, but also many were newly planted. As the olive oil production took expansion, the knowledge about olives and olive oil grew. As a result, techniques of olive growing and olive oil extraction have advanced considerably to this day.
Today, olives are grown all around the world. More than two thousand different olive varieties from Australia to Chile, California to Iran, but only a thousand grow in the Mediterranean. The most famous olive growing regions in the world are in Southern European countries. Olive growing is one of the primary agriculture sectors in many of those countries.
As in the last twenty years, special attention is on homemade, natural, and as few processed foods as possible. A healthy lifestyle and numerous benefits of the Mediterranean diet made this diet more popular than ever. As olive oil is the foundation of a healthy Mediterranean diet, this additionally popularised olive oil consumption. New scientific researchers keep discovering what has always been known - that extra virgin olive oil is rich in quality fats, vitamins, polyphenols, and minerals. Moreover, extra virgin olive oil helps maintain a healthy body from the first months of life.
Thanks to technological advances, today, we can produce better quality olive oil, extract only the best and healthiest ingredients from this small fruit, and allow ourselves to enjoy olive oil's taste and health properties.