History of Olive Oil

Considered sacred by the people of the Mediterranean for thousands of years, the olive tree continues to fascinate and maintain its hold on our imagination. The olive tree belongs to the Oleaceae family and has a life span of around 300 to 400 years. The precise origins of the olive tree are shrouded in mystery. Persia, greater Jordan, and the Valleys of the Nile each have their advocates. Some also contend that the cultivation of the olive began around 5000 B.C. on Crete and the neighboring Greek Islands. The best that can be said with certainty is that cultivation began a very long time ago, somewhere in the Near East and spread slowly westward across the Mediterranean Sea. All major civilizations of the Mediterranean have played a part in the dissemination of the olive throughout this region: Egyptians, Phoenicians, Greeks, and Romans.

The ancient Greeks believed the olive tree was a gift from the goddess Athena and began using olive oil in their religious rituals. Homer, the immortal Greek poet, called olive oil liquid gold and the Greek Laws of Solon, during the 6th to 7th century BC, prohibited the cutting down of olive trees on the punishment of death.

Appreciation of olive oil not just as food , but for many other reasons such as promotion of health and beauty , became ingrained in these cultures. The Romans are said to have slathered it on their bodies to moisturize after bathing.

King David valued his olive groves and olive oil warehouses so much that he posted guards to protect them around the clock. With the spread of Roman Empire throughout Mediterranean, olive oil became a major trade commodity and promoted commerce to unprecedented scale for the ancient world.

The Western hemisphere was introduced to olives by the Spanish and Portuguese explorers during the 15th and 16th centuries. And by the late 18th century, the Franciscan missionaries were establishing groves in California.

Today, the countries closest to the Mediterranean Sea are best known for their continued nurturing of the olive with their temperate climate and soil. But where grapes grow well so will olives. With that in mind , Olive Oil of the World’s goal is to find the best tasting olive oil from every country that produces it and make them available all in one place.