The olive tree
The olive tree is native to the Mediterranean region and Western Asia. The cultivation of olive trees began more than 7000 years ago.
In Greece archeological evidence suggests that olives were grown commercially in Crete since 3000BC making them the major source of the wealth of the Minoan civilization. The success of the Minoans led other Greek regions to start experimenting with the cultivation of the olive tree and by the time of Homer, the whole area surrounding the Aegean sea was filled with olive groves. By that time the olive tree had become sacred for Greeks. During the Olympic Games all victors were crowned with an olive-branch wreath called “KOTINOS”.
Many centuries later, the Romans spread olive tree cultivation throughout their empire, including Spain and France.
After the 16th century, the Europeans brought the olive to the New World, and its cultivation began in Mexico, Peru, Chile and Argentina, and then in the 18th century in California.
Today, the Mediterranean area produces 93% of the global olive production.
Olive trees are very hardy, drought-, disease- and fire-resistant, and can live for a very long time. Its root system is very robust and capable of regenerating the tree even if the above-ground structure is destroyed.
There are six natural subspecies of olive trees distributed over a wide area:
- Olea europaea subsp. europaea (Mediterranean Basin)
- Olea europaea subsp. cuspidata (from South Africa throughout East Africa, Arabia to South West China)
- Olea europaea subsp. guanchica (Canaries)
- Olea europaea subsp. cerasiformis (Madeira)
- Olea europaea subsp. maroccana (Morocco)
- Olea europaea subsp. laperrinei (Algeria, Sudan, Niger)