Olive – Plant of Peace and Plenty
Since ancient times people have grown olive trees for their fruit and oil. Today olive trees are found in all the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. The trees are also grown in parts of the United States, Australia, and South Africa. But the leading producers of olives and olive oil are Spain, Italy, and Greece.
The olives belong to the large family Oleaceae. Olive trees grow slowly, reaching a maximum height of about 15m. Old trees have a rugged, gnarled trunk and branches twisting and curving in all directions. Some trees can live more than 1,000 years. The olive tree is an evergreen. The tiny white flowers develop into fruit. Often the olives are picked when they are still unripe and green colored. Inside the fruit is a stone. Fresh olives are very bitter. These fruit are used for the production of olive oil.
This plant is perfectly adapted to the environment and is very tenacious: the olive can tolerate temperatures below 10 ° C. Therefore, many consider it a symbol of strength. The ancient peoples considered the olive to be the personification of immortality and divinity.
According to Greek myths, the olive was created by the goddess Athena.
For the ancient Greeks an olive branch loaded with fruit was a symbol of peace. People on Crete grew olive trees as far back as 3500 BC. These trees have long been admired for their beauty.
Olive tree symbolizes peace, prosperity, fertility and victory. People made royal scepters from the olive tree, symbolizing the connection of the ruler with God. The mace of Hercules was also made from it.
Ancient healers knew benefits of the olive. Homer considered the olive a precious tree and said that olive oil is fluid gold.
Olive oil has enveloping, analgesic, moisturizing and anti-inflammatory action, promotes the dissolution of gallstones, and also lowers cholesterol. In many cultures, the bodies of the deceased were also greased with olive oil before burial.
Olives are rich in vitamins B, C, E and P, potassium, iron and phosphorus.