Olive Oil History
For the Greeks would have been Athena, goddess of wisdom, which, in its struggle for sovereignty of Athens created the olive tree, whose fruits contained a “miracle” that looked like liquid gold.
To the Egyptians would be the goddess Isis, wife of Osiris – the supreme god of their mythology, who taught the cultivation of olive trees.
In the Hebrew Bible, there are numerous references to the olive tree. After the flood, the dove announcing its term did so bringing an olive branch in its beak.
Christians associate the olive tree and the olive oil to their chronic and rituals.
Also the Quran refers to the oil that is extracted from the fruit of the olive tree, “looks like a glittering star that lights up thanks to a blessed tree, an olive tree”.
The olive tree and olive oil have always been closely associated with all Mediterranean civilizations.
The oleaster (wild olive tree) extended to the whole border of the Mediterranean from the Middle East to the Iberian Peninsula. The Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilizations learned to improve it using various cultural techniques such as grafting and transplantation.
The oil extracted by pressing of the olives was used in religious rituals, as light source, for medical purposes, beauty treatments and ultimately as food. The Greeks considered the olive oil consumption a sign of civilization and refinement.
The culture of olive trees arrived to the Iberian Peninsula by the hand of the Phoenicians, on XII century BC. Later, Iberia became a major supplier to Rome of high quality olive oil. The arrival of the Arabs extended the olive trees growing and olive oil production to the entire peninsula.
The oil is released from the olive crushing and pressing.
These methods have been used since ancient times, although improved, in order to achieve greater efficiency. Originally, only the olive pulp was crushed, obtaining a slurry that was introduced into a bag, extracting the olive oil by twisting of the bag.
Later, a mortar and pestle were used for grinding the olives. Holes excavated in the rock surface were also used, using cylindrical rollers for grinding.
Mills with vertical cylindrical gauges, moved by animal traction or by the force of water or wind, have been improved and disseminated by the Moors. These technique was still used in our times.
To improve the efficiency the cylindrical gauges were replaced by frustoconical gauges. The “pressing” techniques have also evolved along the times, passing from the twisting bag pressing system to a “stick” pressing system, and later to the hydraulic presses.
Currently, in continuous production systems hammer mills are used and pressing and decanting were replaced by centrifugation processes. The thermal-churn technique, which replaced the simple mixing of hot water in the mass, has been introduced to improve the efficiency of the transformation process of olive into olive oil, and is still in use.
The introduction of the continuous production systems, currently in use, enabled to enhance the process efficiency, to reduce the necessary man-power, and to provide a substantial improvement of hygiene and sanitary conditions in the extraction of the olive oil, allowing to obtain significant quantity of “extra virgin” olive oils.
Olive oil is very beneficial for our health.
- Oleic acid and vitamin E work as antioxidants, slowing the aging process and the development of cancers.
- It improves intestinal absorption and protects against ulcers and gastritis.
- It is also important in preventing heart, hypertension and diabetes problems.
- Promotes bone development.
- Olive oil is the only type of fat that does not interfere with the production of the lipase (enzyme responsible for diluting fat molecules).
- Decreases the risk of rheumatoid arthritis.
- Increases the body’s natural defenses against viruses and bacteria and improves the elasticity of the tissues.
- To lower cholesterol, at least 15% of daily calories should come from monounsaturated fats. Those from olive oil help lowering the levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol, without affecting HDL (good) cholesterol or triglycerides, reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke.