By Kieran Blaze
Ladies and Gentlemen, May I have your attention please?
Would you kindly help me welcome the one who needs no introduction…
Olive Oil. Yes, the statement stands alone and could easily be left at that. Too much talk when it comes to the most obvious of Oils, or so they say. But what is it they are saying? That this Oil is pervasive, abundant, worldwide, unstoppable!
Yes, all these truths and more bolster the reputation of the planets most memorable and memorialized Oil. When it comes to fame, Olive Oil is the leading lady and not because she’s Popeye’s slippery girlfriend!
Down the ages the people of the world have harvested and heralded the Olive Tree for both the fruit (whole olive) and its golden Oil that lies within. Homer, the most famous of Greek poets who lived around 700 BC in the Archaic period in Greece, dubbed this marvel “Liquid gold.”
Indeed, Greek mythology claims Olives were created by the goddess Athena and were so admired that only “virgins and chaste men” could tend the groves. However, Roman mythology attributes the origin of Olives to Hercules, who struck the ground which purposed an Olive Tree to grow.
While such fanciful stories help us to court the budding fruit that is Olive, this tree and its counterparts are mentioned more in documented literature than virtually any other oil.
Rome’s noted poet Horace included the Olive in his very own diet which he affirmed as quite uncomplicated: “As for me, Olives, endives and smooth mallows provide sustenance”. Olives were a rare and precious commodity to lovers of fine foods. Protected by emperors, treasured across cultures, the Olive stands firm in its place of pride. Even Ulysses gave small vials of Olive Oil as gifts.
One of the gifts it offers is as a practical tool in religious ceremonies. Many religions use this Oil in special ceremonies, general blessing and prayers for healing. It is used to anoint the head or forehead of the faithful, also to anoint ancient kings and winning athletes. Olives’ most reverenced use is that of anointing or embalming the dead in numerous cultures, sustaining Olives’ status as a symbol of abundance, peace and longevity.
The Olive tree is simply one of the oldest cultivated trees in human history; in fact, the Olive Trees that still grow on ‘The Mount of Olives’ are alleged to have stood in that holy place for over 2000 years! The wonder of it is enough to bring you to tears of joy…or is it awe?
Speaking of awe, well…I will let Him speak for Himself; here is the ultimate statement on how valued the Olive Tree and its “Liquid gold” surely are…
“For the LORD thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills; A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey; A land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack any thing in it;” (Dt 8:7–9)
Now that’s what I call a clarifying statement. If you can’t get it from the mouth of babes, then get it from Gods’, both are supremely honest.
Where are Olive Trees grown?
Olive, as we know her, is considered an evergreen tree or shrub and is found primarily in the Mediterranean basin, planted during the time of the budding Roman republic which grew into the rise of the Roman Empire. In the centuries to come, Olive would find herself popular across Asia, the Atlantic shore of North Africa to Persia and from the Po Valley to the rising homesteads that abutted the river Nile.
Countries such as Italy, Spain and Greece have long been main suppliers with Spain taking 1st in exports due to Italy’s limited harvest region. We round off the list with South Africa, Argentina and Chile coming in at #16 internationally.
While it is true that 98% of all Olive Oil is imported from the Mediterranean regions, here at home (USA), we are slowly but surely chipping away at that percentage. Successful orchards in states such as Arizona, California and Texas are cultivating their own quality Olive Oil that now sits proudly alongside their famous Mediterranean cousins in the market place.
Olive squeezes out of Popeye’s grip successfully, but how does the ‘Oil’ get out off the ‘Olive’?
In my quest to bring you the most accurate information, I search many resources; many more than you see listed below the articles. Only the ones used are the ones credited. However, how interesting it is to draw from the greatest history book in existence: In the book of Hebrew, contained in the Holy Bible, we read the story of the first recorded Olive Oil extraction which took place during the Exodus from Egypt way back in the 13th century BC.
The method used to obtain the Oil was both primitive and purposeful, and highly protected. The Oil was derived by hand-squeezing the berries which had to be kept in special vessels that were guarded by the priests themselves. However, today’s modern methods enable the common man to mass produce this liquid gold that flows through virtually every private and commercial kitchen on earth.
The time chosen to harvest is an important choice. The Olives’ flavor is widely affected by its’ picking time. The preferred ‘peak’ pick is when the Olive has just ripened, about 2-3 weeks after budding. The polyphenol content is also at its most powerful and potent at this time. This is important to those who gravitate to the Olive as a health help, we will discuss this later in the article. Beyond this, the medicinal properties held in the olive will swiftly diminish between 2-5 weeks post peak pick.
At the chosen time, the Olives are gathered, all leaves and twigs removed and the stem taken out, then they are thoroughly washed. Subsequently, it is time for pressing.
As human initiative, imagination and innovation increased, we slowly ebbed away from ‘hand’ work to ‘mill’ work, and arrived at a place where preparation met opportunity, a beautiful thing in production and in everyday life. Long ago craftsmen fashioned large wheels made of stone to crush the Olives. Progressing to an infinitely harder and durable stone, the designers moved ahead towards granite for their projects.
In today’s modern world, stainless steel is the new choice of manufacturers with granite still in operation in many factories; regular stone has been phased out.
Some contemporary systems crush the Olives inside closed mixing chambers which are filled with a harmless gas that prevents oxidation, which in turn conserves the quality, flavor and increases yield. The stainless steel rollers or ‘grindstones’ crush the entire Olive including the pit and grind it all into a paste. The removal of the skin in this fashion is known in the business as ‘undressing’ or ‘embarrassing’ the Olive, and as that wily sailor Popeye states “Olive! I didn’t recognize you without your skin on! – I’m Popeye the sailor man…Toot Toot!!” Thank you Popeye, now here’s your spinach.
The paste then goes through a process called ‘malaxation’ which involves water being slowly added and stirred into the paste. This process permits the minuscule molecules that reside in the Olive to cluster together into a concentrate. The resulting paste is spread over straw mats which have steel plates inserted in random areas, these mats are first pressed and then, the paste sent through a centrifuge.
When the centrifuge is finished spinning, the paste remnants remain on the walls of the drum and the Oil and water, which are later separated, flow through the center of the centrifuge. The now prepared Olive Oil is carefully stored and kept in stainless steel containers at 65 degrees Fahrenheit to ward off any change in the quality of the Oil before it can be bottled for shipping.
Olive: The Heroine of the Kitchen, She Saves our Skin!
When the conversation turns to food preparation, what premier oil comes to mind almost immediately for the majority of us? No, this is not a trick question; it is a very obvious one with a clear and honest answer; Olive Oil is undoubtedly the most popular premier Oil available today. In fact, Lord Monboddo made a bold statement concerning our beloved Olive way back in 1779; he said “Olive Oil is a preferred food of the ancients and one of the worlds’ most perfect foods.”
Considering that this prized Oil is wealthy in mono-saturated fats, it is primarily used in cold dishes such as salad dressings and bread dip or drizzle often served with balsmic vinegar, parmesan cheese, and spices including garlic, oregano, pepper, and the likes of. To prevent damage to the healthy unsaturated fats, it is recommended that olive oil not be used for frying or cooking at high temperatures. predominantly saturated fat such as coconut oil is more stable and better suited for high temperatures.
Olive oil is not only enjoyable to eat, but also contains exceptional antioxidants. We already touched on an important group of nutrients called ‘polyphenols’. This particular group of antioxidants help to slow the aging process by deactivating the harmful effects of free radicals that attack and tear-down the cells of our body.
Olive oil also performs as an antiseptic, an anti-inflammatory, and an outstanding skin toner, helping improve rheumatic systems, irritated or inflamed skin and also for those with sensitive skin. Vitamins such as E & K are prevalent along with chlorophyll, flavonoids, beta-carotene, squalene and the fore-mentioned polyphenols.
But why mix skin care with food? Because if you intend to prepare meals with Olive Oil, it will most certainly end up in your system and therefore your skin.
Our friend and ally The Olive promises much more. Her nutrition can help heal you from the inside out, whether migraines, rheumatoid arthritis, constipation, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, gallbladder, jaundice, psoriasis, lice, wounds, minor burns, stretch marks due to pregnancy, ear infections, earwax, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), pain in the ears and the list goes on, including nail and hair support. It simply isn’t feasible to list each and every medical condition helped by the benevolent and generous nutrition of the Olive. Nor do we have time to even touch the tangible truth concerning Virgin and Extra Virgin Olive Oil that is esteemed locally and internationally.
But one incredible gift Olive tenders us is the role in preventing & helping devastating events such as heart attack, stroke, and maybe most astonishing, brought to play in the fight against breast and colorectal cancer. It is important to note at this juncture that other forms of cancer have been connected to colorectal cancer (colon cancer) of which melanoma cancer (skin cancer) is one. Yet once again, our leading Lady Miss Olive applies her well rehearsed remedy of redemption by offering her help as an ultraviolet (UV) protectant before the sun by promoting a dewy and radiant complexion after the sun, while maintaining the elasticity of the skin and smoothing dry/rough areas that can be irritated.
Wise women and men apply a little after shaving their legs and face to indulge in the land of luxurious beauty. Wise not only because it works, but, moreover these individuals understand that the promises offered by higher priced products can also be found in Olive, who navigates a peaceful path for those seeking a natural way to serve the skin.
Since our skin is the largest bodily organ, it follows that it is the first thing people see and notice about us. In our quest to retain a youthful appearance, Olive engages the enemy (time, free radicals, stress, environment etc.) and slays our would be captors. Age has had its day. Suffering skin is not a sure and steady sentence. Whether it be the soap you cleanse with or the lotion you moisturize with it is true to say that “Nature knows best, let her lead the way” and you, oh wise one, go the way of the Olive.
The Final Curtain
But sadly, Olive must go her way too. As the searchlight of the universe sweeps across the capacity crowd for audience reaction, a hush comes over them, waiting for one more glimpse of the most famous of all oils. She may be ancient, but that doesn’t mean she’s out of date, just ask her agent! On the contrary, Olive is both an ancient and modern marvel catapulted to superstar status the world over.
“But wait!” They whisper, “Here she comes!” “What is she wearing?” they wonder, “She looks incredible” they gasp! “I simply must know her secret”. Could it be? Is it true? Yes! Here she comes wearing STOCKTON ALOE #1 YOUTH DERM OINTMENT. The onlookers are thrilled. Standing center stage she greets us for the last time. As she turns to leave, this great and shining star pauses to respect the surging multitude and their final wish. And as the final curtain comes down the adoring fans receive their gift…turning now to face them she steps once more into the worldwide spotlight as the throbbing mob cry out in one collective voice…
Olive…we love you!
Take your bow!!!
The Holy Bible: King James Version
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