The History and Traditions Related to Olives and Olive Oil.From the Old Testament to the present day, olive oil has been a precious gift.
Extra virgin olive oil is a very ancient food, so much so that it is even mentioned in the Old Testament. It has been a part of our culture since time immemorial.
The ancients used it for the most different uses, such as in cooking as a seasoning, as a beauty lotion, and as an ointment during religious services.
Besides being one of the main ingredients of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil, on which traditions have conferred symbolic value since ancient times, has always been used for divination purposes or to ward off evil influences. It was and is used in both folk and official medicine for its emollient and soothing properties and as a base for the preparation of ointments and creams. It is an indispensable component in the preparation of cosmetics, an efficient defense for the body in sports, and it is used in mechanics, in weaving, in sphragistics (from the Greek sphragis – seal) and in sculpture. As a source of alternative thermal energy recently rediscovered and valued, olive oil has been appreciated for centuries as a valuable source of light.
From the olives to oil.
Looking at the evolution of massive millstones and machinery for the processing of olives helps us to understand today how the extraction techniques, the different stages of processing, decantation, and storage have changed. The age-old search by millers to obtain a high-quality product led to the development of increasingly sophisticated techniques and specialized solutions that today are supported by automated controls on chemical, physical, and organoleptic characteristics of extra-virgin olive oil.
Production and trade
Already in Roman times, the rustic villas, farms with facilities similar to those of modern times, and cargo ships bear witness to the importance of olive oil production and trade in the agricultural economy all over the ancient world.
The use of oil as a source of light.
The most ancient use of olive oil is as a source of fuel for lighting lamps and lanterns.
Full of symbolic and religious meanings, the oil also fuels the votive lights of the three major monotheistic religions of the Mediterranean basin: Judaism, Islam, and Christianity.
Peace, victory, prosperity, strength, and regeneration: the olive tree’s symbolic meanings are complex and stratified.
Oil as a medication and as a cosmetic.
For millennia appreciated for its healing properties, the oil is still used as a basis for pharmaceutical preparations.
The Arabic medical knowledge, widespread in the Western world thanks to the teachings of the ancient Medical School of Salerno, attributed therapeutic properties to olive oil.
In even earlier times, the doctors of ancient Greece claimed that to keep one’s body healthy, it is good practice to bathe the body’s inside with wine and lubricate the outside with olive oil. The use of oil-based ointments was also common practice to gain some advantage when wrestling, or in other sporting competitions, and to maintain the elasticity of athletes’ skin in the ancient world.
Olives as a heat source.
The use of olives as a heat source seems to come from rural traditions in response to the need, all too modern, for identifying alternative energy sources. Blocks of olive-pomace, the last waste of olive pressing, were once burned in braziers, warmers, and heaters…a heat source that was then abandoned and has since been rediscovered.
Olive oil as a food.
As the undisputed basis of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil, introduced into cooking already in ancient Greece, stands out for its high nutritional value, lightness, and pleasant taste.
Olive oil returned to international prominence in recent years, after centuries of being nearly forgotten. This rebirth was made possible by the latest scientific and medical discoveries and because of the increasingly frequent use by famous international chefs. Nutritional studies have shown that olive oil has excellent healthful qualities.
Medical studies have demonstrated that olive oil is very effective in preventing various diseases including diabetes, obesity, cancer, and aging. Furthermore, the collected data show that olive oil has excellent therapeutic qualities in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases, because it reduces cholesterol in the blood, decreases the risk of thrombosis and, consequently, the risk of a heart attack. In the West, cardiovascular disease is a major cause of death, so, for this reason, the health benefit of olive oil has become all the more important.
Adhering to a proper, healthy and tasty diet which includes olive oil, is a good way to help prevent cardiovascular diseases.