A HISTORY OF OLIVE OIL

history-olive-oil

6000 YEARS OF FLAVOUR

Mentioned in Greek legends and holy books, the universal symbol of peace, glory and prosperity, the history of olive trees is inseparably linked to the history of the populations that settled in the regions around the Mediterranean Sea in the last 6000 years. From the very first olive-growing attempts in the Middle East, mainly to make ointments and medications, the making and culture of olive oil has been spread over the centuries by the Egyptians, the Phoenicians, the Babylonians, the Jews, the Greeks and the Romans, each one contributing to the spreading of olive trees and the development of the harvesting, processing and storage techniques. It was particularly with the Greeks that olive oil became the most important commodity, playing a key role in their economy and culture. Then, it was the Romans who made the success of olive trees in the known world, as they began to grow olive trees in the conquered regions and asking for part of the harvest in return as taxes. The fall of the Empire marked the beginning of a dark age for olive trees, which lasted until the Middle Ages. Back then, people preferred to eat animal fats, as they lasted longer. For centuries, olive groves survived in just a few areas, and the only ones who kept growing them were religious orders, who used their products for liturgical services. It was not until 1100 AD that olive oil began to flourish again and found favour with the middle classes as a good alternative to animal fats in the Italian eating habits of the time. It was precisely in Italy that olive oil went through a veritable Renaissance: in 1400, our country became the greatest producer of olive oil in the world, extending its exports to all of Europe. In 1700, the Franciscan missionaries brought olive oil to America, where it eventually played an increasingly important role in imports, boosted by the demand of Italian and Greek immigrants. In the meantime, in Italy olive cultivars were officially listed for the first time, based on the region they were grown in. Top of the list, in terms of quality and quantity, are Tuscany and Puglia, which have been definitely and universally recognised as the greatest oil-making regions. Moving on to the twentieth century, with the post-war economic boom, olive oil came to be regarded as a poor food again and replaced with animal fats. It was only recently, with the success of the Mediterranean diet, that olive oil has made a comeback as a staple in all Italian households and beyond, with Italy, Spain and Greece still the world’s greatest producers of such a precious product.

history-olive-oil

6000 YEARS OF FLAVOUR

Mentioned in Greek legends and holy books, the universal symbol of peace, glory and prosperity, the history of olive trees is inseparably linked to the history of the populations that settled in the regions around the Mediterranean Sea in the last 6000 years. From the very first olive-growing attempts in the Middle East, mainly to make ointments and medications, the making and culture of olive oil has been spread over the centuries by the Egyptians, the Phoenicians, the Babylonians, the Jews, the Greeks and the Romans, each one contributing to the spreading of olive trees and the development of the harvesting, processing and storage techniques. It was particularly with the Greeks that olive oil became the most important commodity, playing a key role in their economy and culture. Then, it was the Romans who made the success of olive trees in the known world, as they began to grow olive trees in the conquered regions and asking for part of the harvest in return as taxes. The fall of the Empire marked the beginning of a dark age for olive trees, which lasted until the Middle Ages. Back then, people preferred to eat animal fats, as they lasted longer. For centuries, olive groves survived in just a few areas, and the only ones who kept growing them were religious orders, who used their products for liturgical services. It was not until 1100 AD that olive oil began to flourish again and found favour with the middle classes as a good alternative to animal fats in the Italian eating habits of the time. It was precisely in Italy that olive oil went through a veritable Renaissance: in 1400, our country became the greatest producer of olive oil in the world, extending its exports to all of Europe. In 1700, the Franciscan missionaries brought olive oil to America, where it eventually played an increasingly important role in imports, boosted by the demand of Italian and Greek immigrants. In the meantime, in Italy olive cultivars were officially listed for the first time, based on the region they were grown in. Top of the list, in terms of quality and quantity, are Tuscany and Puglia, which have been definitely and universally recognised as the greatest oil-making regions. Moving on to the twentieth century, with the post-war economic boom, olive oil came to be regarded as a poor food again and replaced with animal fats. It was only recently, with the success of the Mediterranean diet, that olive oil has made a comeback as a staple in all Italian households and beyond, with Italy, Spain and Greece still the world’s greatest producers of such a precious product.

2017-10-16T14:52:33+00:00