Thursday, October 9, 2008

Olive

The Olive (Olea europaea) is a species of small tree in the family Oleaceae, native to the coastal areas of the eastern Mediterranean region, from Lebanon, Syria and the maritime parts of Asia Minor and northern Iran at the south end of the Caspian Sea. Its fruit, the olive, is of major agricultural importance in the Mediterranean region as the source of olive oil.

The Olive tree is an evergreen tree or shrub native to the Mediterranean, Asia and parts of Africa. It is short and squat, and rarely exceeds 8–15 meters in height. The silvery green leaves are oblong in shape, measuring 4–10 cm long and 1–3 cm wide. The trunk is typically gnarled and twisted.
The small white flowers, with four-cleft calyx and corolla, two stamens and bifid stigma, are borne generally on the last year's wood, in racemes springing from the axils of the leaves.
The fruit is a small drupe 1–2.5 cm long, thinner-fleshed and smaller in wild plants than in orchard cultivars. Olives are harvested at the green stage or left to ripen to a rich purple colour (black olive). Canned black olives may contain chemicals that turn them black artificially.


The olive is one of the plants most cited in recorded literature. In Homer's Odyssey, Odysseus crawls beneath two shoots of olive that grow from a single stock. The Roman poet, Horace mentions it in reference to his own diet, which he describes as very simple: "As for me, olives, endives, and smooth mallows provide sustenance." Lord Monboddo comments on the olive in 1779 as one of the foods preferred by the ancients and as one of the most perfect foods.
The leafy branches of the olive tree, olive leaf as a symbol of abundance, glory and peace, were used to crown the victors of friendly games and bloody war. As emblems of benediction and purification, they were also ritually offered to deities and powerful figures: some were even found in Tutankhamen's tomb.
Olive oil has long been considered sacred; it was used to anoint kings and athletes in ancient Greece. It was burnt in the sacred lamps of temples as well as being the "eternal flame" of the original Olympic Games. Victors in these games were crowned with its leaves. Today it is still used in many religious ceremonies.

Olive oil is a fruit oil obtained from the olive (Olea europaea; family Oleaceae along with lilacs, jasmine and ash trees), a traditional tree crop of the Mediterranean Basin. The wild olive tree originated in Asia Minor, today the country of Turkey. It is commonly used in cooking, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and soaps and as a fuel for traditional oil lamps.


Over 750 million olive trees are cultivated worldwide, 95% of which are in the Mediterranean region. Most of global production comes from Southern Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.
World production in 2002 was 2.6 million metric tons, of which Spain contributed 40% to 45%. In 2006 Turkey accounted for about 5% of world production, similar to the Spanish province of Jaen alone, well known for the biggest olive groves in the world.
Of the European production, 93% comes from Spain, Italy, Greece.
Greece devotes 60% of its cultivated land to olive growing. It is the world's top producer of black olives and has more varieties of olives than any other country. Greece holds third place in world olive production with more than 132 million trees, which produce approximately 350,000 tons of olive oil annually, of which 82% is extra-virgin (see below for an explanation of terms). About half of the annual Greek olive oil production is exported, but only some 5% of this reflects the origin of the bottled product. Greece exports mainly to European Union (EU) countries, principally Italy, which receives about three-quarters of total exports. Olives are grown for oil in mainland Greece, with Peloponnese being the source of 65% of Greek production, as well as in Crete, the Aegean Islands and Ionian Islands.
Among the many different olive varieties or cultivars in Italy are Frantoio, Leccino Pendolino, and Moraiolo. In Spain the most important varieties are the Picual, Alberquina, Hojiblanca, and Manzanillo de JaƩn. In Greece : Koroneiki. In France : Picholine. In California : Mission. In Portugal : Galega. The oil from the varieties varies in flavour and stability (shelf life).
In North America, Italian and Spanish olive oils are the best-known, and top-quality extra-virgin oils from Italy, Spain and Greece are sold at high prices, often in "prestige" packaging. A large part of US olive oil imports come from the EU, especially Spain. The US imported 28.95 million gallons of olive oil in 1994, a 215% increase from 1984. The US is Italy's biggest customer, importing 22% of total Italian production of 131.6 million gallons in 1994.
Pictures taken By Spera Gerardo at Pomarico (Italy), text by:

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Hello everyone and welcome in my photoblog. The photos are all taken in italy and specifically in basilicata. My small town called POMARICO is located in the province of Matera, ITALY. Good Vision! Dino.

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