The story of olive oil is one that dates way back to 4000 B.C. Over the course of the six millennia since, olive oil has become a significant part of human history and culture – not only in cuisines but in medicine, skincare, and religion. It has inspired the writing of books, the construction of trade routes, and even the economic development of entire cultures. It is a story that is continuously being written, developed, and perfected. It is a story that has its roots – literally – on the olive tree.
Olive trees are – without hyperbole – amazing. As of today, it is estimated that there are 865 million olive trees around the world. There are many unique properties inherent to olive trees. Some of which are:
- Olive trees can live for thousands of years and are extremely resilient. Because of its uniquely robust roots, olive trees can withstand even the harshest natural calamities such as floods and drought!
- Olive trees are surprisingly easy to maintain! Olive trees – similar to eucalyptus trees – can go through extended periods of time without needing to be watered.
- Olive trees are also aesthetically beautiful. With some even growing magnificent white flowers that further enhance the unique look of the tree.
A little known fact is that the first evidence of the cultivation of olive trees dates back 6000 years in the Middle East! The olive tree also has religious significance in Islam, even being acknowledged in the Qur’an for having miraculous benefits. Hence, it doesn’t come as a surprise that olive oil has been a keystone in the history of cuisine in the Arab region. In fact, the biggest olive farm in the world is located in Saudi Arabia!
The olive tree is responsible for bringing one of the most precious products to the world: the olive oil. Similar to the tree it comes from, olive oil has cemented its contribution to humankind as a whole by ingraining itself deep into our culture, history, and tradition.
A common misconception about olive oil is that it only serves culinary purposes. However, since ancient times, it has been used for numerous purposes. Olive oil has served as:
- A medicine – it was used in ancient times as ointment and medicine! It was even called “the great healer” back then!
- A tool – it was also famously used as oil for lamps, a lubricant for tools, and as an air cleanser.
- A symbol – the olive oil, together with the olive tree and the olive branch, has served as a central symbol of peace and kindness through its long, brilliant history.
An Oeuvre Worthy of Celebration
The olive tree and the olive oil deserve to be celebrated. One could even argue that olive oil is as essential a breakthrough to human history as the printing press or the internet! In fact, UNESCO has recognized and acknowledged the impact of olive trees that on the 2019 UNESCO General Conference, World Olive Tree Day was proclaimed to take place on 26 November every year. It is a welcome celebration and one that rightfully acknowledges its role in our distant past and the promise of a brighter future.
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