The Olive was a native to Asia Minor and spread from Iran, Syria and Palestine to the rest of the Mediterranean basin around 6,000 years ago. It is among the oldest known cultivated trees in the world (being grown before the written language was invented). It was being grown on Crete by 3,000 BC and may have been the source of the wealth of the Minoan kingdom. The Phoenicians spread the olive to the Mediterranean shores of Africa and Southern Europe. Olives have been found in Egyptian tombs from 2000 years BC. The olive culture was spread to the early Greeks then Romans. As the Romans extended their domain they brought the olive with them (but not the olive branch! They were fond of conquering). A little known fact is this: 1400 years ago the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad, advised his followers to apply olive oil to their bodies, and himself used oil on his head.
April 15, 2008
There's an interesting diary on "the history of the humble olive" over at Daily Kos, of all places, that was rather interesting. Be sure to check it out. Personally, I love olives and olive oil, and I can easily go through a bottle of olives while eating cottage cheese (another favorite food), using the olives as a garnish. Tasty! Here's a brief quotation from the diary: