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Milking the olive tree

Updated on April 10, 2015

Cherishing olive picking. Between September and the end of December, possibly January, many people in Jordan and the surrounding region like the Palestinian territories huddle around stretches of land to thrash down the olive trees, get the oil out, and deliver them to tables all around the world.

It's a period of common bonding where people live on the land milking the olive trees which have been in existence since time immemorial and have over the centuries served as the bedrock of civilizations from the Greek and Romans till modern times.

In our household, things are turned upside down during the olive picking season when father and mother—now getting on and belonging to the older generation—literally drop everything and become solely devoted to the olive tree.

Mother can't wait for the season and father actually stops going downtown and makes a point of ferrying daily to the olive tree holdings which we have several in the south west of the Jordanian capital.

For them the olive tree has deep embedded significance as underlined by the Quran and the Bible whose strictures and teachings talk at length about this blessed tree.

For them as well the olive tree has the elements of things past, back in the days of Palestine where they once lived normal lives, reared on the different fruit and olive trees but have been removed because of the Israeli occupation.

Today, the olive tree is revered not only in the Mediterranean and north African countries but all over the world reaching Spain and Italy, California and Mexico and south America as there are estimated to be 800 million trees in the world.

In Jordan there is about 17 million trees around the Kingdom, it is reputedly to be third largest producer of olive oil estimated at around 20,000 to 24,000 tons annually from an olive production of 150,000 tons.

Figures are phenomenal and one can fathom the scale of production outside the capital, travelling in rural areas where he can see by himself the myriads of fields and patches with olive trees, just left asunder to be nurtured by the semi-arid terrain, weather and scarce rainwater.

That's the beauty of the olive tree and its growth across this area. The generally warm weather has a lot to do with its replenishment.

Besides my folks, who like to take over the managerial aspect of olive picking, there are the workers, men, women, young, old and children, and are usually come from one extended family.

Depending on the field, and I am talking about ours, here they take anything from two weeks to a month-and-a-half to pick with daily wages given to everyone.

My mother likes to feed them, both in the morning and at lunch-time despite the fact their production becomes much slower in the afternoon, and no doubt because of a full stomach. They are usually on the farm from 8 am till around 3 pm where they start rushing to get home.

In Jordan, there are some large farms which use machinery to pick, but the industry, as a whole, is not mechanized but rely on labor power.

They work in groups, harvesting one tree at a time. The bottom of the tree is covered and usually the olive is just picked and thrown down under.

It is not a laborious process, there is some kind of action and rhythm. The men and boys work together, and that goes for the women and their girls, not too young though.

In her younger days, my mother used to join in the thrashing as well at different times of the day. She would be seen climbing on different branches of the tree to get to the olives that would go up and up.

You could tell, she was exhilarated, taken away from mundane chores of looking after the house and digging at something completely different.

In the earlier days, they used to sleep on the form where father had built a house, being locked away at will from urban city life. But this is no more, with younger, muscle bodies taking over.

The olive trees is part and parcel of the geographical terrain of the land. In Jordan, its peaceful and serene. It's a season that pays well for Jordan and the economy. Sadly this is not true of the Palestinians living across the river.

Despite the fact that olive production makes up 25 percent of the economy there, trees are systematically uprooted by Israeli vandals and settlers. (http://www.middleeastmonitor.org.uk/reports/by-dr-hanan-chehata/2959-a-harvest-of-tears-palestinian-agriculture-continues-to-suffer-as-a-result-of-ruthless-israeli-policies).

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    • marwan asmar profile imageAUTHOR

      Marwan Asmar 

      6 years ago from Amman, Jordan

      Thanks Sanjog, glad you stopped by. Yes, the olive tree is a blessed one, and we ought to take more care in studying it.

    • SANJOG MAHESHWARI profile image

      SANJOG MAHESHWARI 

      6 years ago

      In India, we are aware of medicinal properties of olive oil and know that it is good for health. Patients with heart problems are routinely advised to use olive oil as a cooking medium. It is also recommended for seasoning salad. However, as the common people find it quite costly and beyond their means,the elite and rich only can afford it. Apart from this, till I read the hub and the comments thereunder,I knew petty little about other uses of the fruit. Thanks for sharing the knowledge.

    • marwan asmar profile imageAUTHOR

      Marwan Asmar 

      6 years ago from Amman, Jordan

      Cheers Deborah, yes olives are very tasty, and can be eaten any time of the day with the main meals.

    • Deborah Brooks profile image

      Deborah Brooks Langford 

      6 years ago from Brownsville,TX

      I love olives.. so good.. when I lived in Spain I remember people coming to our door asking us if we wanted to buy olives. I would go find a jar and for twenty five cents I would get a jar of olives.. I did not know about the olive tree and it being harvested.. this is a very good HUB.. I voted up and awesome.

    • Brinafr3sh profile image

      Brinafr3sh 

      6 years ago from West Coast, United States

      Olive oil is used as an anointing oil for Christians, it can assist with the healing of body, mind, and Spirit. I also use olive oil in a teaspoon every 2 weeks.

    • marwan asmar profile imageAUTHOR

      Marwan Asmar 

      6 years ago from Amman, Jordan

      Cheers, yes I agree

    • icciev profile image

      icciev 

      6 years ago from Kuwait

      Thanks marwan for this intreseting hub about the tree we share our passion for, and don't worriy about the lsreali vandal as tamim bar3'othey once said " A country which always their hater and being enemy against olive tree will never stand for forever"

      Voted up

    • marwan asmar profile imageAUTHOR

      Marwan Asmar 

      6 years ago from Amman, Jordan

      Thanks, much appreciated. The olive tree has much resonance in both religions

    • anglnwu profile image

      anglnwu 

      6 years ago

      Interesting hub on olive trees. I know that olive trees hold significance for people in the Middle East. As a Christian, it holds significance for me as well. I enjoyed reading this and it has given me more appreciation olive oil too. Rated up.

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