The Cultivated Olive Tree
The Olive Tree (olea europaea) has a place in history, infused in Mediterranean traditions. It has been harvested by humans for more than 8,000 years for its oil and its fruit. The Olive tree thrives in warm sub tropical climates, benefits from moisture in the air and likes to have its feet in rocky, poor soil.
The first olives are said to have been harvested from low shrubs (or domesticated trees) in Syria and Asia Minor and the Assyrians then discovered around the year 6000BC that this fruit could be pressed to produce flavourful oil.
Typically Olive trees are propagated from cut roots or branches, which are buried in the ground or are grafted on to existing olive trees.
The major growing areas today still skirt the Mediterranean. Other sub tropical growing areas of note tend to track great wine regions, including USA (particularly California), New Zealand, Australia, Chile, Argentina and South Africa.
The Olive tree benefits from cultivation, requiring an investment of time, will, knowledge and above all passion. Harvesting by hand in the cold early winter weeks and pruning in the chilly early spring are not for the faint hearted. If well tended, it can reward consecutive generations: we have even witnessed trees in Puglia that are said to be 3,500 years old.
``The olive tree is surely the richest gift of heaven``