Where do olives come from?
Olives weren't invented to be a topping for pizza. No, they have a history longer than that. Olives are believed to have originated in southern Turkey or Syria in about 3000 before the birth of Christ. And according to the Bible, Noah's dove brought an olive branch back to the ark after it pissed down rain for over a month. In the Greek Olympic Games an olive twig was given to the winner as a symbol of victory, me, I would have preferred cash
For centuries (or rather, millennia) olives have provided a valuable food source for people. Stores of olives pickled in brine were found in the ruins of Pompeii, which date all the way back to the first century, no word if it was found in the storeroom of an ancient pizza shop. On the tiny island of Crete the remains of storerooms for olive oil have been found that date back as far as 2000 BC.
Oil from olive trees was very important in trade between people back in ancient times. Kings used to have pissing contests with each other to see how rich they were, the one with the most number of jars filled with olive oil was declared the wealthiest and the winner.
Olives intended for oil extraction are not cropped until late fall or early winter, when the fruit has turned black in color and its oil content is at its maximum. The fruits are usually knocked from the trees with long poles and in some olive growing areas plastic netting is bread below the trees to catch the fruit.
As well as olive oil, olives are marketed as black ripe, green ripe, green fermented, dried salt-cured and stuffed. I recommend the ones stuffed with fetta cheese.
Not only handy, olive trees are also very hardy and manage to thrive in areas that are otherwise destitute.... barren.... sparse.... . At one time even the barest desert regions of North Africa were covered with olive groves. They are widely grown in countries surrounding the Mediterranean sea such as Greece, Italy and Spain, where they are an important part of the economy. It is said that once upon a time a person could travel from Mecca to Morocco in the shade of olive, date, and fig trees. No word on what happened to those trees. Maybe someone forgot to pay the water rates or something.
Olive trees grow best in places with long hot summers and low humidity. They can survive long periods of drought but produce better crops with more moisture.
The Spaniards (not to be confused with the 'spaz tards' of which there are many on this site) took olive seeds and cuttings to the New World (the Americas) and planted them around their missions in California. With the Californian climate being warm and dry, the trees thrived.
In case you didn't figure this out already, an olive tree lives a long time. In the Garden of Gethsemane on the
aptly named Mount of Olives, there are olive trees that have been going for two
thousand years (kind of reminds me of me Old Nan), though they may not have the same trunks as originally (me Old Nan has had a hip replacement too by the way).
They were probably renewed by new shoots growing from their bases. Olive trees can be grown from either seeds or cuttings. A cutting is a stem or other part of the plant that will grow into a new tree if planted properly.
An unusual thing about the olive is that it cannot be eaten fresh from the tree (yucky! Don't try it!). Fresh olives are very bitter because of a substance called glucoside. The bitter taste of the fruit must be removed by pickling (neutralizing the glucoside with caustic soda aka sodium hydroxide) before the olive can be eaten.