A Brief History
The olive tree has been celebrated and referenced in the cultural
works of every society. Called "the oldest cultivated tree",
it has served as a food, a fuel, a medicine and has been a symbol
of peace, unity and healing for thousands of years.
The existence of the olive tree dates back to 35,000 years BCE. Fossilised
remains have been discovered in North Africa dating around 20-30,000
BCE. The wild olive tree originated in Asia Minor where it is extremely
abundant and grows in thick forests. It was first cultivated in Syria
and Palestine around 6000 BCE. Traders from the Middle East brought
the tree and knowledge of its cultivation to Asia Minor, Cyprus, Greece
and North Africa in around 3000 BCE.
Around 1700 BCE the olive tree was introduced to Egypt by traders
from the Middle East. Tutankhamen even wore a garland of olive branches
as a mark of honour. The Greek civilisation from 1000 BCE onwards
saw olives and olive oil, not only as important foods, but also symbols
of holiness, courage and life. During the Roman era, they became expert
producers of cured olives and olive oil, developing several different
types of oil for cooking. In 1503, the Spanish invaders brought olive
tree plants to the Americas and by 1600 olives were grown in Peru,
the West Indies, Argentina and Mexico!
Over the last few centuries, the olive has spread to North and South
America, Japan, New Zealand and Australia. Today they are commercially
produced in Spain, Italy, France, Greece, Tunisia, Morocco, Turkey,
Portugal, China, Chile, Peru, Brazil, Mexico, Angola, South Africa,
Uruguay, Afghanistan, Australia, New Zealand and America!
In ancient times, the winners at the Olympic Games were given olive-wreaths
as trophies and received a large number of olive oil jars! Today,
in Turkey, what some consider to be the Turkish national sport, ‘olive
oil wrestling’, still flourishes throughout the country!
From the beginning, the calming and healing properties of its oil
have been recognised and the olive branch has long been used as a
symbol of peace. Today, there are approximately 800 million olive
trees with 93 percent of them growing in the Mediterranean basin.
The olive tree belongs to the botanical family of Oleaceae. It is
characterised by its extended life span, some in the Mediterranean
region are said to be over 2,000 years old! It grows to a height
of 20-40 feet and begins to bear fruit in the second year and repays
cultivation in the sixth year, continuing to bear fruit even when
old and hollow, though the crop varies from year to year.
It bears lanceolate leaves and blooms with fragrant little whitish
flowers. The ideal conditions for its growth are at a mean temperature
of 15 to 20 C, i.e. especially in Mediterranean countries. During
maturity, the oil content of the olive increases and reaches 15 to
30% weight of the total fruit. Olives are found with several different
colours, these aren't different kinds of olives but just the same
basic olive at different stages of ripeness and cured in different
The fruit is about 3/4 inch long, ovoid and often pointed, the fleshy
part filled with oil. The thick, bony stone has a blunt keel down
one side. It contains a single seed. Being hardier than the lemon,
the Olive may sometimes even produce fruit in England!
The Average Composition of Olive Oil
Flavour Substances, Carbohydrates & Other Compounds
Fiber, Ash, Aliphatic & Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons. b-carotene.
Aliphatic & Terpenic Alcohols. Triacylglycerols (TAG). Diacylglycerols
(DAG).Mmonoacylglycerols (MAG). Pheophytin A. Aldehydes. Ketones.
Furan & Thiophene derivatives. Non-glyceride compunds including:
Sterols (b -sitosterol), Triterpene, Phenols, Phospholipids & Chlorophylls.
Vitamins - A, Thiamine (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Niacin (B3), C. E. K.
Antioxidants- Squalene, B-sitosterol, Campesterol, Flavenoid Polyphenols
(Tyrosol and Hydroxytyrosol), Tocopherols, Phytosterols, Avenasterol.
Minerals- Water, Sodium, Calcium, Iron, Potassium, Phosphorous.
Acids- Free fatty acids, Omega-3, Omega-6, Palmitic, Palmitoleic,
Steric, Oleic, Linoleic, Linolenic, Arachic, Benzoic, Cinnamic, Thiobarbituric.
Production & Composition
It takes between 1,300 to 2,000 olives to produce just over one litre
of olive oil. Each olive is approximately 15 calories and each tablespoon
of olive oil has approximately 120 calories. It is the oily juice
of the fruit and not (in contrast to other vegetable oils) a seed
oil. Native olive oil is virtually the only oil that can be consumed
exactly the way it is obtained from the fruit, and when properly
processed, maintains the taste and odour of the fruit unchanged.
To produce the best oil, olives are first harvested by hand at the
proper stage of ripeness and maturity. Experts feel that hand harvesting,
as opposed to mechanical harvesting, enables olives of the same size
and ripeness to be picked and eliminates bruising of the fruit which
causes tartness and oil acidity. Once at the mill, the leaves are
sucked away with air fans and the olives are washed to eliminate any
remaining impurities (e.g. dust or soil). Then they are crushed whole,
without prior stoning.
Traditionally with two granite millstones rolling
within a metal basin.
The oil, comprising 20% to 30% of the olive, is nestled in pockets
within the fruit's cells. To separate the solids and liquids, the
olive paste is spread onto a pulp mat, which is then stacked onto
other mats to form a cylindrical load held fast by a central guide.
The pressure exerted on the stack causes the liquids to run while
the solids (pomace) are retained on the pulp mats. During the process,
the temperature must be maintained between 16-28 degrees Celsius
to prevent thermal deterioration of the oil.
The vegetable water and oil gradually seep out, running down into
a set of decanters. Pressing is the oldest and most common method
of oil extraction. The mixture of water and oil produced by this
traditional pressing method can be separated by gravity in decanting
vats. A more rapid separation can be achieved in centrifuges. The
first pressing yields the
superior quality oil, and the second and third pressings produce
oils. The best olive oils hold a certificate by an independent
organisation (not regulated or financed by the industry) that
stone ground and cold pressed extraction process.
The result of the producers' efforts is a cold pressed
extra virgin olive oil with high quality standards and organoleptic
which give the oil its unique properties. Olive oil is a complex
compound made of fatty acids, vitamins, volatile components,
components and microscopic bits of olive.
Olive oil is rich in monosaturated fat, oleic acid,
polyphenol, and vitamins A and E. Its chemical structure, a compound
of carbon and
oxygen, is very stable and contains antioxidants and no cholesterol!
Research & Benefits
Olive oil has always been placed somewhere between food and medicine.
Hippocrates, recommended the juices of fresh olives as a cure for
mental illness and poultices of macerated olives for ulcers!
In the Middle Ages, it was used to treat gynecological complaints
and in the Mediterranean countryside, was used as a treatment for
ear aches, as a purgative, especially for children, as a treatment
for stomach aches, gastritis, gastro-duodenal ulcers and to soften
Olive oil's low percentage of saturated fats compared to other oils
is one of the factors that make it "the choice" among all
kinds of oils. It is said to help accelerate the digestive process,
protect arteries, the stomach, the liver and is also said to be effective
in preventing several diseases.
Unlike all other oil varieties whose chemical structure features more
than one double link, olive oil's has only one. Its peculiar chemical
structure enables olive oil to stand high temperatures (both in cooking
and frying) and to prevent the forming of compounds which are detrimental
to people's health.
The flavenoid polyphenols in olive oil are natural anti-oxidants which
have been shown to have a host of beneficial effects from healing
sunburn to lowering cholesterol, blood pressure, and risk of coronary
disease. Many other nut and seed oils have no polyphenols. The polyphenols
are not the only substances in the olive with health promoting effects.
Research has shown that while polyphenols are important, tocopherols,
phytosterols, and particularly avenasterol contribute to the olive
oil's anti-oxidant activity.
Anti-oxidants help prevent damage caused
to the body by "free radicals", which are produced when
the body needs oxygen. Their production increases as one ages and
they have been linked to heart disease, cancer and ageing.For many
years research has shown that when olive oil, rich in monounsaturated
fat, replaces saturated fat in the diet, it lowers total cholesterol
and low-density lipoprotein (LDL, the "bad" cholesterol).
Researchers believe that olive oil may help to-
||Protect against cancer
||Keep colon cancer at bay
||Protects against bowel cancer
||Reduce blood pressure level
||Protect against heart disease
through the immune system
||Reduced the incidence of developing
breast cancer for women
||Inhibit the growth of human prostate
||Reduce the risk of developing
||Inhibit or delay the rate of
growth bacteria such as Salmonella, Cholera, Staphylo-coccus,
Pseudomonas, and Influenza in vitro.
Research is currently also has focusing on the protective
effect of minor constituents of olive oil on cardiovascular disease.
illustrate the commitment that the world-wide scientific community
has made to explore the full health potential of olive oil. The
combination of new health findings and olive oil's taste profile
to distinguish it from all other cooking oils.