The Olive tree, Olive, The Blessed Tree, Olea Europea Sativa, Mediterranean
Olive - the Blessed Tree
The olive tree appeared in the region of the Mediterranean Sea thousands of years ago and from there it spread to all neighboring countries.
Since ancient times, the olive tree is present in legends, in the arts and in the local history of the countries where it grows. The olive, apart from being an exceptional product for the nutrition and health, has always been a symbol of prosperity, peace and fertility, and as such has constituted an integral part of the social and economic life as well as the artistic expression of people.
Apart from the excellent example of the use of olives and olive oil in the Mediterranean diet and cosmetics, today, the wood and the leaves of the olive tree and even the wastes of the fruit processing can be used as well.
The olive tree
Its full name is Olea Europea Sativa. It is approximately 60,000 years old. An evergreen, centenarian tree, it originates from the eastern basin of the Mediterranean Sea. It has the ability to prosper under difficult conditions. It adapts to the rocky and infertile soils and the dry and warm summers of the Mediterranean basin. But it can withstand temperatures as low as 0. As an adult, it is of medium size, while it can grow up to ten meters. There are, of course, exceptions, the “dwarfs”. Its most beautiful phase is at the end of spring, the flowering stage.
A tree bound with every expression of civilization and found by the side of people in all momentous events. It has been associated with high ideals, making us love it. Throughout the years, it has transformed into a symbol. An ambassador of knowledge, wisdom, abundance, peace, health, strength and beauty.
It became inextricably tied to legends and an integral part of traditions and religious ceremonies, at times transcending the borders of Greece. During antiquity, the olive tree and its fruits were the principal elements of the offerings to the gods. It is also holds a prominent position in art, as it inspired many artists to create jewelry, while there are numerous literary creations which were inspired by this wondrous fruit. Of course, it was inevitable that its existence would be tied to sports as well, in the form of an award. In the ancient times, winning an olive wreath was the greatest honor for an athlete in the Olympic Games.
And although one might have expected that with the passing of time the contribution and presence of the olive tree would fade, it is, on the contrary, constantly reinforced. From simple everyday tasks to religious ceremonies it loudly declares its sweet and tasty presence. In how many cooking recipes is olive the core ingredient? And of course, the olive oil is indispensable in almost every meal. In the Christian religion, the first contact is at a very early age, more precisely during the christening. Even sailors pour oil in the sea to calm the waters and wish for a good journey! And these are only a few of the uses of olive oil. It is used as a fuel for the winter, but also in the making of furniture, in some cases more aristocratic and chic, while in other more modern and practical. No part of the olive goes to waste, even the residues are made use of, and this is the reason why we say the olive tree is blessed.
The olive tree grows in every type of soil, even in the most infertile and rocky areas. Yet its yield is much better in relatively fertile soils which retain enough moisture. It suffers in heavy soils that hold water. It prefers neutral or mildly alkaline soils (pH 7-8), but it can also withstand mildly acidic soils. It has a relatively good tolerance to salinity, being mildly affected by electrical conductivity (ECe) of up to 4 dS/m and with an exchangeable Sodium (Na) content of up to 20-40%.
According to mythology, goddess Athena and god Poseidon were claiming the patronage of the ancient city of Athens. In the end, goddess Athena became the patron of the city which was named after her, as she offered to the Athenians the first tame olive tree.
Even in the Olympic Games, the players were anointed with olive oil before the games, and the winners proudly wore the olive wreath, proof of how sacred this tree was to the ancient Greeks.
From antiquity until today, the olive and the olive oil are fundamental ingredients of the unique Mediterranean diet, offering health (vitamin E, antioxidants etc.) and beauty, as they are used in a substantial number of beauty products with remarkable properties.