The Olive tree dates back to early ancient times in both, biblical and classical writings. In these early writings, olive oil is referenced as a symbol of goodness and purity, and the tree represents peace and happiness. In ancient times, during the Olymic games, olive oil was burnt in sacred lamps at temples and the victor was crowned with leaves from the olive tree.
Olives have been cultivated since prehistoric times in Asia Minor. Today olives are commercially produced in Spain, Italy, France, Greece, Tunisia, Morocco, Turkey, Portugal, China, Chile, Peru, Brazil, Mexico, Angola, South Africa, Uruguay, Afghanistan, Australia, New Zealand, and California. The Mediterranean area produces 93% of the olive production in the world. Currently there are some 800 million olive trees being cultivated. Over 90% of the olive production is used to make extra virgin olive oil and other olive oils. California is the only state in the United States where olives are grown commercially.
The Olive tree is considered an evergreen tree; it can live to be over 2,000 years old. It grows 20-40 feet high and begins to bear fruit between 4 and 8 years old. The tree blooms with small whitish flowers that have a wonderful fragrance.
A Franciscan missionary planted the first olive tree in California in 1769 at a Franciscan mission in San Diego. The olives grown in California are called "mission olives". Of all the species of olives, this olive is especially good for its oil.
Olives are not edible, green or ripe; they must be treated with lye and/or cured in brine or dry salt before being edible. They contain about 20% oil. Greek olives are not treated with lye. They are strong tasting because they are just packed in dry salt, or pickled in brine for 6 to 12 months (where they undergo a process of lactic fermentation), and finally packed in fresh brine.
Spanish green olives are picked before they are ripe, treated with lye, and then placed in a brine and allowed to ferment.
California olives are treated with lye and then packed immediately in brine and sterilized. They do not undergo the fermentation process, and the sterilization 'cooks' them. This lack of fermentation and the 'cooking' produces a bland, uninteresting olive.
Nutritional fact: Ten medium size black olives have 50 calories and 4 grams of fat.
Now that we know where Olive come from, what is olive oil doing in our cocktails?