The Olive History

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Olive History

The cultivated olive has been part of history for many centuries. It appears to have originated in Asia and spreading with the population throughout the Mediterranean lands. The oil and olives became integral parts of diet and commerce. They mentioned in much ancient literature and became symbols of peace and hope. The processing methods although mechanised today have not changed in their basic steps.

This is part of a detailed report on agricultural practices and food processes , describing various methods of preparing olives for eating . It is the probably the oldest written reference on how to prepare them and is dated 42BC and was written by Lucious Junius Moderatus Columela . His instructions include :

“Throw into a modius of olives, a sextary of mature aniseed and mastic-tree oil and three cyati of fennel seed. Then mix in three heminae of unground toasted salt, place in amphoras and cover with fennel.”

The olive tree was brought to the shores of South Africa in the days of Jan Van Riebeeck. The pioneering efforts of the early olive farmers have brought about a flourishing

Industry which produces a high quality product.

The trees are slow to grow, taking four or five years to yield their first fruits and another ten to 15 to reach their full capacity. Once established, however, the olive tree can live for many years.

There are stories of trees which have stood for 1000s of years. Some trees are known to have been around for 100 years or more, but really old trees are more likely to be the result of new shoots rising up from root systems which have survived the ravages of age or bad weather.

The unripe olive fruit is pear-shaped and green in colour, changing to dark purple or black as it ripens. All olives, if left on the tree, will follow this pattern. Green table olives are picked an cured before they have ripened. Others are left on the trees and picked when they are fully ripe.

The slow growing trees, yielding their first olives in 4-5 years are a very attractive green, with leaves that have a silvery coloured underside and give the groves a shimmering dance in the breeze.

The unripe fruit is green then changing from purple to black as they ripen.

Great care is taken whilst picking and fresh fruit is processed as quickly as possible to achieve maximum quality and taste