The olive trees in Alentejo, Portugal, are centuries old

A native of the Mediterranean basin, wild olives were collected by Neolithic peoples as early as the 8th millennium BC. Although the olive tree is believed to have originated in Asia Minor, now modern Turkey, the earliest cultivation of the trees is widely accepted as having taken place on the island of Crete.

More than a mere foodstuff, Olive oil has been a staple of the mediterranean peoples for more than a millenia. In ancient Greece, Homer called it “liquid gold”, and atheletes ritually rubbed it over their bodies.  It’s uses have extended to religous rituals, medicinal preparations, soaps, fuel for oil lamps and as a skin care treatment.

Our culinary use of olive oil is even suggested as being the source of the word ‘oil’. The English word Oil is believed to be derived from the Greek ‘elaion’, which in turn may have been a derivation of the Phoenician word “el’yon” – meaning superior – probably in comparison to other vegetable oils.

The first recorded extraction of Olive Oil is referenced in the Hebrew Bible during the Exodus from Egypt in the thirteenth century BC, and remnants of over 100 presses have been found in Ekron, where the biblical Philistines also produced oil. With some estimates of the seasonal output at close to 3000 tons.

According to Greek mythology, Zeus challenged Poseidon and Athena to provide mortals with the most useful divine gift. Poseidon offered the horse. Zeus chose Athena as the winner for providing the olive tree for its oil, its fruit and wood together as a symbol of peace, wisdom and prosperity.

The Romans said ” Partes humani cultus necessariae vinum atque oleum olivarum ” – The necessary ingredients of civilisation are wine and olive oil

The wider Mediterranean was introduced to olives as the Roman empire grew and the rest is as they say, history

Neudorf Olives, Upper Moutere Nelson