Unsurpassed source of nutrition, life and inspiration. Praised and loved by ordinary people, ancient and contemporary writers and poets who were fascinated by the light, the colours and the wonderful primeval stories that only olives and olive trees can so beautifully share.
Olives and olive trees are words inextricably linked – for thousands of years – with the Greeks’ daily life, gifts of the nature present in all milestones of their life: birth, marriage and death.
It is as old as human memory, as durable as farmers soil, as sacred as the ancient sacraments. The olive tree thrives in the Mediterranean countries as a permanent and dominant element of their landscape and culture, as a companion and a nurturer of in its people.
Olive tree is a perennial, evergreen tree that thrives in mild sunny climates.
The root of the olive penetrates deeply and spreads out on stony and soft soils to find moisture and food. The trunk of olive tree is thick and can reach 7-8 meters in height. It has a smooth surface while young and becomes dry and grey as progressives with time.
Olive tree leaves are light green on one side and silver green on the other. They are small and lance-shaped. Olive trees bloom in April-May. They blossom into a cluster of flowers, which do not emit any scent and whose shape is circular with full of pollen in the stamens. The flowers are wind pollinated. The olive fruit consists of three parts: the epicarp (skin), the fleshy mesocarp – where olive oil is mostly derived from – and the woody endocarp (stone).
The history of olive tree is connected with the life of Mediterranean people. The Mediterranean basin was the place where the first olive trees appeared, while the first cultivation of olive trees took place in Greece. Since ancient times, olive trees appear in myths, play and the history of the nations and the countries where it grows. It was also a symbol of sportsmanship, prosperity, peace and fertility.
The presence of olive trees in Greece from the very Neolithic era demonstrates the dominant importance that olive oil, edible olives, wood, and even the leaves of the tree had for Greeks. Archaeological findings reconfirm the use and value of olives in ancient times, confirms that the olive was one of the most useful and most loved trees in Greece.
Clay tablets inscribed on Linear B scripts have been found in the archives of the palaces of Knossos, Pylos and Mycenae and bear witness to the economic importance of olives in the 14th and the 13th century BC. In Knossos and Archanes, olive stones have been found inside vessels, also in Zakros whole olives with their flesh have been found, dated around 1450 BC. Olive stones have also been found in Minoan tombs in the area of Messara, as well as olive oil presses elsewhere in Crete dated back to the Post-Mycenaean Period (1450-1200 BC).
Olives are depicted in works of art from this period. A mural of the Palace of Knossos dating to the 16th century BC is a wonderful depiction of an olive grove, while the Golden Cups from the Mycenaean tomb at Vaphio in Laconia (16th century BC) are decorated with olive tree motifs. The first olive tree was said to have been planted in the Acropolis by the goddess Athena “Ergane” and since that time was declared the sacred tree of the city of Athens.
The olive in Greek mythology is the symbol of peace and reconciliation. In Homer epics, olive trees were poetically described as a large and powerful blooming trees, depicted with large wings and beautiful fruits. The oldest oil press that was discovered on the plateau of Methana proved that the olive was common in the Peloponnese.