Olea europaea

Olea europaea

Olive or olive tree (Olea europaea L., 1753) is a long-lived medium-large fruit tree; you have specimens of over a millennium. Its fruits, olives, are used for extraction of oil and, to a lesser extent, for direct use in feed.

Systematic –
The systematic olive tree belongs to the Eukaryota Domain, the Kingdom Plantae, the Magnoliophyta Division, the Magnoliopsida Class, the Scrophulariales Order, the Oleaceae Family, and then the Olea Generation and the Specie O. europaea.

Etymology –
Olive and olive names derive from the Latin olīvum (from an ablative olīvī, olīvō of oleum) which in turn comes from the archaic Greek ἔλαιϝον élaiwon and the classical Greek ἔλαιον élaion; the present olive or olive shape is more frequent in Tuscany, but also diffused in other parts of Italy, although it is mostly used in poetical-literary fields; the olive form, which is prevalent in scientific literature, is typical of Veneto, Sardinia, Emilia-Romagna and northern Lazio; in the south of Italy, however, the terms aulivo, alivo, avulivo prevail. The specific term europaea derives clearly from its territorial diffusion.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Olea europaea is a typically thermophilic and heliophilous species, it prefers dry, dry and dry climates and climates and is sensitive to low temperatures. This species vegetates in loose, coarse or shallow soils, with outlying rocky vegetation and fruit trees; is also one of the most tolerant species of salinity and can also be cultivated near the coasts from the sea level up to 900 m s.l.m. It is presumed to be originally from Asia Minor and Syria, because in this region the wild spontaneous wildlife is very common, forming true forests on the southern coast of Asia Minor. But the Greeks were aware of this tree to which they gave the special name of λαία that the Latins translated into olea.

Description –
Although the origins of the Olive are still subject to debate among scholars, it is thought that the cultivated species is derived from selection and subsequent vegetative propagation from the wild or Olive grove, which is currently widespread in the indigenous state of the hottest coastal region of the overlook the Mediterranean. The Olivastre, which stands out to be spin-off and to have shorter leaves (<4 cm), is sometimes used as a rootstock for cultivated varieties and is mostly found in shrubland even though there are no impressive specimens and is one of the main components of Mediterranean scrub. When the grafted olive is cut, it frequently emits wild-type olives, that is, olivaste.
However, the olive tree is an evergreen and leafy tree whose vegetative activity is almost constant with attenuation in winter. It has a slow growth and is very long: in favorable climatic conditions an olive can become millenary, and reach heights of 15-20 meters. The plant begins to fruition towards the 3rd to 4th year, full productivity starts at 9th-10th year and maturity is reached after 50 years. The roots, mostly of advent, are expanded and superficial: generally they do not push more than 60-100 cm deep.
The stem is typically cylindrical and twisted, with a bark of gray or dark gray and hard and heavy wood. The plump form of the globose structures, called ovules, from which many basal pollen are emitted annually. The coat has a conical shape, with branches branching and pendulous or patented branches (arranged horizontally with respect to the stem) according to the variety. The leaves of this plant are opposed, coriacee, simple, whole, elliptical-lanceolate, with short petiole and entire margin, often revolving. The bottom page is of a characteristic white-silvery color for the presence of squamous hairs. Gems are mostly axillary.
The flowers of the olive are hermaphrodites, small, with four-seater chalice and corolla of white petals. The flowers are ordinarily grouped in number of 10-15 in cluster inflorescences, called mignoles. These are emitted at the aisle of the leaves of the sprigs of the previous year. Mignolatura starts in March-April. The actual flowering takes place, according to the cultivars and the areas, from May to the first half of June.
The fruit of the Olive is a globally, ellipsoidal or ovoid drum, sometimes asymmetrical, with a weight varying between 1 and 6 grams, depending on the variety, the cultivation technique adopted and the climatic trend. The harvest period, which depends on the cultivars and the use to be made: whether from oil or from the canteen is between October and December.

Cultivation –
Go to the cultivation tab.

 

Uses and Traditions –
The use of the Olive is lost in the history of man. Numerous legends are told: one of them is of Greek origin and tells of Athena that, in an effort to bless men, he planted his spear into the ground and grew the first olive branch; another speaks of an olive harvested at the borders of the world from Hercules, where the sacred forest was born in Zeus, from whose fringes the wreaths were crowned for the Olympic Games winners. Yet another anecdote on the olive tree concerns the dove that, to announce to Noah the end of the universal flood, brought him an olive twig that held close between his paws.
What seems certain is that however, the first wild plants existed on the island of Crete since the 4,000 BC. and that later the Cretans specialize in the cultivation of this plant which will later be exported throughout the Mediterranean basin.
Oil mills were found dating back to 5000 BC about, both in Palestine and in Syria; the cultivation is attested in archaeological sites north of the Dead Sea dating back to 3500 BC. C. where hazelnuts and wood were found to be used as building material or as firewood.
The Egyptians around 2300 BC they used the branches of the plant to decorate the tombs of the Pharaohs and archaeological finds it was possible to understand that in Egypt oil trade was already flourishing before the Nineteenth Dynasty.
From ancient papyrus he learned that Ramses III (1198-1166 BC) planted olive trees near the temple of Thebes; production had to be offered to god Ra; Finally, Olivo’s branches are carved on the bas-reliefs of the Temple of Ramses II at Ermopol (XIII century BC).
At Ebla (ancient city of the ancient Bronze Age III – half of the 3rd millennium BC, rebuilt twice and finally destroyed in the middle of the 2nd millennium BC, whose remains lie near the modern Tell Mardikh (about 60 km southwest of Aleppo , in Northern Syria) clay tablets dating back to 2,500 BC have been found, which testify to the production of oil at the time of King Minos. These tablets are the earliest written testimony of Olive, Oil and Uses in a period of greater splendor of the Minoan civilization.
Just as in Egypt and Crete olive cultivation and oil use were also important in Mesopotamia, I have witnessed the laws on the regulation of production and trade in olive oil contained in the famous Hammurabi Code (XVIII BC). In Babylon the physician was “asu”, that is, an expert in oils.
In Palestine many tribes were involved in olive cultivation and the most active one seemed to be the one of the Philistines. The place where Gethsemani’s garden was located (where Jesus used to go to pray and where he went before crucifixion with his disciples) still today represents one of the most productive areas and still in that area there are 8 multi-century olives .
In Greece the presence of Olive in mythology is significant and is directly proportional to the utility of the plant and to the problems that the great demographic development already set in the fourth century BC. It wants a legend that the olive trees of Athens were born from the first tree made on the Acropolis by the goddess Athena during the controversy with the god Poseidon to obtain supremacy in the protection of the city; Another legend tells that agriculture would be taught to men by Aristeo, Apollo’s son and Cirene nymphs, and that Aristeo would always invent the crusher and systems to extract the oil.
In Italy, the presence of historical documents and the collection of olive trees, some of which are multi-century, show that in the past olive cultivation was practiced along the foothills of Emilia Romagna.
The olive plant was formerly regarded as a symbol of peace, triumph, victory, and honor, and its fruit was mainly used for rites and ceremonies of purification.
The ancients said: the Mediterranean begins and ends with the olive tree! Today, we know that olive cultivation goes far beyond the Mediterranean, but we have the awareness that alongside the olive tree has spread to the world a food civilization, a result of wisdom and the experience of 6,000 years, rediscovered by contemporary science is commonly defined as “Mediterranean Diet”.
The olive tree is therefore a central plant in the history and culture of civilizations that face the Mediterranean basin, and all over the West.
From a nutritional point of view, because of the bitter taste, due to the polyphenol content of freshly harvested olives, the use of olives as a fruit in the diet requires special treatments for deamination (reduction of bitter principles), made with various methods .
From a therapeutic point of view, European Olea extracts, in the form of gemmodiversity, mother dye and, above all, titrated and standardized leaf extract, have demonstrated a discrete antidlipidemic, vasodilatatory and hypotensive activity (in borderline arterial hypertension), in addition to the antiflogistic one. Olive contains triterpenes, flavonoids, secoiridoids, bitter substances, tannins, mineral salts, chlorophyll, wax, mannitol. It has antiseptic, astringent, hypotensive and antipyretic properties, soothing, laxative and emollient.
The most valuable oil, extra virgin, is squeezed without using heat and chemical solvents; has a low acidity (about 1%). It is thought that regular use of this oil reduces the risk of circulatory disturbances and reduces gastric secretion, benefiting those who suffer from hyperacidity. The organoleptic characteristics of oil and olives vary greatly depending on variety, harvest time and processing techniques. It is interesting to note that olive is one of the few fruits from which oil is extracted, the other oils being extracted by chemical or physical process from seeds.
Olives, however, have always been an important ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine, as well as oil that gives flavor to cooked and raw foods. But oil is also added to soothing, ointments, soaps, prepared for the skin and hair. In the past, oil was also used for alfalfa.
Olivo’s plant is often used to delimit fields because it is a good windmill and in the dry season, its fronds represent the existence of goats and cows in the pasture.
The yellow-brown color, sometimes variegated, is hard and can be perfectly polished; used as parquet and fine work of cabinetry and inlay, the lathe machined has exceptional gloss characteristics. It is very valuable as combustible.

Preparation Method –
The use of olive oil in human nutrition is so rooted and diffused in different cultures that it is virtually impossible (if not in a specific discussion) to list all food uses and preparations.
Of course, the extra virgin olive oil is the most important use of this plant, together with the olives worked in various ways.
By leaving out the methods for the production of extra virgin olive oil, which for obvious reasons is difficult home preparation, we recall the various methods and all variants to prepare olives in brine, green or black, or crushed and ready after a few days out of bounds and uses straight to the pâté of olives (green or black).
Olive oil, which came back after the rediscovery of the Mediterranean Diet (recognized by UNESCO as well protected in the list of oral and intangible assets of humanity in 2010) is today one of the food grounds for the preparation of innumerable foods, both in raw cooked.
In recent years, however, they are recovering old uses such as:
the mother tincture of olive which is an excellent anti-cholesterol, antibacterial and antiglycemic, useful for heart, pressure and arteries;
the extract of olive leaves.
Their therapeutic uses are varied and are related to substances such as saturated and unsaturated fatty acids; triterpenes, flavonoids; oleoresins and elenoids. Leaves, used to make mother dye, have anti-glycemic properties, anticholesterol, help regulate blood pressure, lowering it, as they have a diuretic and vasodilatory effect. In particular, they are the tetronic glucosides (elenolide and oleuropein) acting as hypotensives and vasodilators.

Guido Bissanti

Sources
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Treben M., 2000. The Health of the Lord’s Pharmacy, Tips and Experiences with Medicinal Herbs, Ennsthaler Publisher
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora d’Italia, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (eds.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.

Caution: Pharmaceutical applications and surgical uses are indicated for information purposes only; they do not represent any prescription of a medical type; Therefore, any responsibility for their use for the purpose of healing, aesthetics or food is refused.



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