The Amazing Greek Olive Tree
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The olive tree is one of the most iconic trees in the Greek culture; it has been an important part of Greek culture since ancient times. In fact, the olive tree is the reason that Athena became the patroness of Ancient Athens. When Poseidon and Athena were competing for that honor, the people decided that Athena’s gift of the olive tree made her worthy of the city.
Today, the olive tree grows in abundance all over Greece, not just in Athens. It’s also just as useful as it was back then. The Greek people don’t let any part of the tree go to waste. Olives trees are used for their olives, which are eaten for food and pressed for their oil. Even the wood is used to make furniture, kitchen utensils, and even for food. Without the tree, Greek cuisine wouldn’t be what it is today. Olives can also be used for medicine! Here’s some more information.
A lot happens to the humble olive by the time we eat it on the plate. The fruit ripens on the tree and is picked either by human hands or specialized machinery. The olives are then stripped of all extra plant matter such as leaves and twigs. Since olives are naturally bitter, they need to be cured before they are eaten.
There are several methods for curing olives including:
- Soaking them in water,
- Brining them in a salt water solution,
- Curing them with salt,
- Dipping them in lye.
The method used depends on the type of flavor characteristics desired. The olives we eat in the store are normally cured and then seasoned. Each manufacturer seasons them differently using a combination of herbs, spices, olive oil, and even citrus peels.
It’s amazing that olives were being pressed for their oil since ancient times. Ancient Minoan archaeological sites, for example, have large storage areas that were used to house olive oil. Back then the oil was used in much the same way as it is today – for commerce, to eat, and even to use as cooking fuel. However, using it for fuel isn’t as common a practice today as it was back then.
Another great use for olive oil is in cosmetics. It’s used as a moisturizer, as a base for soap, and in shampoos and conditioners. The beauty industry finally understands something that Greeks have known for centuries – that olive oil is very good for the skin and hair.
The leaves of the olive tree don’t go to waste either! People have been using the olive leaf for medicine for centuries. It was actually the Ancient Egyptians who first used it and the Greeks followed shortly after it. The leaves are known for their antiviral activity and are commonly used to help ward off the cold and flu. It’s also a powerful antioxidant.
As you can see, the olive tree has many uses. Cooks all over the world love eating Greek olives and cooking with the olive oil! It was an important tree in Ancient Greece and will be that way for centuries to come.
Categorized in: Greek Cooking
This post was written by Greek Boston