13 Nov

Fun Facts about Olives

Olives appear in one of the earliest cookbooks ever discovered, a 2000-year-old text by a Roman named Apicius.

Olives were so revered in Biblical times that it is said that Moses granted olive growers an exemption from military service. Traditionally, olive oil was the oil burned in Hanukkah lamps. The earliest Olympic flame was a burning olive branch.

Carvings of olives appear on pharaoh’s tombs in the pyramids of Egypt.

Traditional Chinese Medicine uses olive soup as a sore throat recipe—the only occurrence of the olive in Chinese cuisine.

The conventional canned “Black Mission” olives are actually green olives that have been cured with lye, which changes the color to black. (This is not true of canned Black Mission olives at Whole Foods Market.)

Governments have begun to grant Controlled Designation of Origin to olives, just as with fine wines and cheeses. Thus, only the olives produced in Kalamata, Greece are permitted to carry that name.

For thousands of years the olive branch has been used as a sign of peace and goodwill. This may be partly due to the fact that in early cultivation of the olive, it took decades to bear fruit for harvest, and, therefore, it was believed that anyone who planted olive groves was expecting a long and peaceful life. The symbolism is also likely related to the Biblical story of Noah’s Ark and the dove.

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