About Our Olives

OLIVES THROUgh TIME

No other food can rival the olive for its role in cultures throughout history. The olive tree is revered as sacred and immortal. Its branches symbolize peace. Its fruit is regarded as an indispensable food, and its oil signifies prosperity and purity, and has been an essential element in religious rituals across cultures.

AN ANCIENT TREE

It is generally believed that the first olive trees came from countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. It is among the oldest known cultivated tree in the world, having been grown before the written language was invented.

The early Egyptians cultivated olive groves. An inscription on a temple to the god Ra from the time of Ramses II (1197-1165 BC) tells of olive groves around the city of Heliopolis that produced pure oil, the best quality in all of Egypt, for lighting lamps in sacred places.

The Bible refers to the olive tree as the "king of trees" and as the "tree of life." In the Book of Genesis, the dove sent out from the ark by Noah returned with an olive branch: the great symbol of peace, indicating the end of God's anger.

The olive was venerated by the Greeks and the Romans and spread throughout their empires. A symbol of wealth and peace, the victors of friendly contests and bloody wars were crowned with an olive wreath. Olive oil was much prized as an ointment and fragrant oil, and it was an essential element of religious ceremony.

A MYTHICAL FRUIT

According to Greek mythology, Poseidon, god of the sea, and Athena, goddess of peace and wisdom, disputed over whose name would be given to the newly built city in the land of Attica. To end this dispute, it was decided that the city would be named after the one who offered the most precious gift to Attica's citizens.

Poseidon struck his trident on a rock and salt began to flow. Athena struck her spear on the ground, and it turned into an olive tree. Because the olive tree could produce edible fruit, could survive for hundreds of years and was the source of the oil that men used to dress their food, cure their wounds, and light their homes, it was decided that the olive tree was more valuable. Hence, the new city was named Athens in honor of Athena.

Even today, an olive tree stands where Athena is believed to have struck her spear. It is said that all of the olive trees in Athens are descended from the first olive tree offered by Athena.

The Olive in California

Spanish Missionaries brought the olive tree to North America in the 1700s. The first olive trees were planted in California at the San Diego Mission by Franciscan monks in 1769. The trees were planted throughout California with the intention of producing oil, but the lower-cost European olive oils won out. In the late 1800s, a housewife, Freda Ehmann and her son Edwin began experimenting with new ways to market the olive, and they found success with the California-style ripe black olives she cured in barrels on her front porch.