So what about Olive Oil
To track the origin of olive oil we have to know where this thing we call an olive came from. Let’s begin our search with the ladies name Olive and see where that takes us, just for the heck of it.
Did you know that in Latin it’s spelled and pronounced (oliva), meaning symbol of peace, and the Latin interpretation of the name was, “olive branch.” Sound familiar. In ancient Greece the branch was worn by brides as a symbol of peace. The origin of the phrase, “extend an olive branch” as a way of making peace and to reconcile, is traced back to the old testament and the flood. The news that the flood is over is brought by a dove carrying an olive branch.
Olive’s first known appearance as a girls name was in Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.” The literary tradition continued in the cartoon about Popeye the Sailor man. His girlfriend’s name was Olive Oyl. We’re getting closer. (Not that it means anything but her brother’s name was Castor Oyl).
All that is interesting, but it doesn’t lead us to the root of olive oil. Forgive the pun. So let’s try another path. It looks like the olives themselves and the trees they hang on have been around for at least 6,000 years. The best guess is that their planting and growing began in ancient Greece. And the trees are mentioned in stone writings that go all the way back to 2500 BC in the reign of King Minos on the island of Crete. They next traveled to the Iberian Peninsula in Portugal and Spain. When their journey took them on to Rome they got the benefit of advances the Romans had achieved in producing the oil from the olives. Ah ha, we’re on the way. It gets a little tricky here. The Romans named the Iberian Peninsula—Hispania, if you hadn’t guessed. And in old Rome the oil of Hispania was considered the creme de la creme so it soon earned that same distinction through out the Roman Empire—Olive oil had arrived. And believe it, or don’t believe it, after all of that jumping here and there today Spain is indeed the worlds leading producer and exporter of good old olive oil. Whew, what a trip.
Now that we’ve learned something about olive oils genesis, let us turn to the most important question of all. How good is olive oil for you? Or is it? It certainly is. To start, because it has something called oleric acid it helps lower the amount of the bad kind of cholesterol, while it is boosting the good kind. It delivers a solid component of Vitamin E, helping to prevent arteriosclerosis. It even works on getting your blood pressure down and fighting thrombosis. All in all this delightful little morsel does an awful lot to keep us healthy and happy.
So, the next time you confront an olive or its oil, be sure to say thanks to the little giant!