OLIVE: SYMBOL OF CIVILISATION, ICON OF IMMORTALITY

The olive tree is mentioned in all holy books, legends of creation and foundation. One of the legends in the Old Testament mentions Noah and the flood. When the flood stopped, Noah sends a white dove out of the window of the ship to see if the waters have withdrawn.  The dove returns to the ship since the waters have not withdrawn. After seven days, Noah lets the dove free again. This time, the dove returns with a newly plucked olive leave. That’s when Noah realizes that waters have withdrawn from the land. The dove that holds an olive leaf in its beak becomes a symbol of hope and peace from that day on. The olive tree, which resists the destructive power of the flood, becomes the symbol of immortality. The Hittites reflected in their prayers how important olive is for their country. In the heart of the olive is oil, they pray to mother goddess for her to keep the king, queen and princes and the people of Hatti in her heart and soul amicably.

Where Is The Homeland Of The Olive?
It is observed in the researches that the olive has an important place in the cultures of civilizations established in the Mediterranean. For example, olive and olive oil had an important place in the food culture of the ancient, Greek and Roman civilizations. Although there are different opinions about where the original homeland of the olive tree is, it is generally accepted that its homeland is South Asia Minor. This region is described as Southeast Anatolia, Eastern Mediterranean and Mardin, Hatay, Gaziantep and Kahramanmaraş districts within the borders of our country. It is believed that it spread to Greece, the Aegean Islands, and Spain via sea trade from Anatolia to the world later on.  Today, 97% of this miracle fruit production takes place in the Mediterranean countries. Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, and Tunisia are the top five countries regarding the production of table olives and olives which are used for olive oil production. 

How To Extract Oil From Olives?
Olive oil is a kind of oil obtained from olive fruits. 1500-2000 years after the earliest known date of its existence, olive oil was extracted and its use became widespread. The first method used to extract the oil from olives was to crush the olives with feet first and remove the oil with hot water. Nowadays, stainless steel cylinders are used for the extraction of olive oil. The olives are crushed till they become dough-like and then water is added slowly during the kneading process so that the oil cluster with the help of water. The dough is kneaded for a maximum of 20 to 40 minutes, the oil obtained must be stored at approximately 18 degrees in stainless steel tanks to avoid deterioration until the bottling process.

Areas Of Use And Health Benefits Of Olive Oil
The reason why olive has an important place in human history stems from the diversity of its field of use. In ancient times, olive and olive oil were used in oil lamps to lighten, to make medicine in medicine, to beautify in cosmetics, and also to be consumed frequently as a basic food product. Hippocrates, who is the founder of Greek medical science according to mythological sources, suggested that those who cannot bathe should rub their bodies with olive oil for cleansing and that the athletes should use olive oil for their muscles to shine, relax and soften. Just as Goddess Hera rubbed her body with olive oil to seduce God Zeus, it is also anecdotal in the myths that rich women and men apply olive oil after baths to soften their bodies.

In ancient civilizations established in Anatolia, it is seen that olive and olive oil are used in religious ceremonies, for protection from the evil eye, for the treatment of some diseases and lighting. In short, olive oil is a highly appreciated gastronomic value that has been a source of healing for human beings for thousands of years due to its nutritious properties and being an extremely valuable nutrient in terms of its protein, vitamin, and mineral richness.

In today’s scientific studies conducted by experts, the benefits of olive and olive oil to human health have been re-proven by modern means. For example, it is remarkable that cardiovascular diseases are less common in Mediterranean countries where olive is consumed a lot. Due to its high nutritional value, it meets most of the daily nutritional needs. Olive oil consists of high amounts of fatty acids (oleic acid), phenolic compounds, vitamin E, vitamin K. It helps with aging healthily, staying shape and keeping the bad cholesterol under control.

Tips For Buying Olive Oil
Olive oil has multiple production methods. Its aroma, taste, and smell vary according to the region where it is grown and its production method. These oils are put on the shelves of the markets are labelled as natural, extra virgin, organic natural, Riviera, refined and stone print. When buying olive oil, you should determine what you need by considering the acidity level (the lower, the better), taste, production specifications and usage. Of these, the ones with the lowest acidity are natural extra virgin, stone print, and organic natural olive oils.  Another hint is to keep the olive oil in dark glass bottles away from high temperatures and light to extend its shelf life and to preserve its vitamins.

The Must Of Turkish Tables: “Olive”
Olive, whose habitat is the Mediterranean basin, has a huge production area with commercial value along the arch that covers the whole northern and southern Aegean Region,  the southern part of the Marmara coast, parts of Mediterranean coasts and even some parts of South eastern Anatolia. When the demand balance of the domestic market is taken into consideration, olive cultivation in our country covers almost fifty percent of all cities (41 out of 81 provinces produce olives in nearly 300 districts).

Besides its gastronomic value, the historical journey of olive, which has a mythological and cultural side, has turned olive into a sacred fruit in all cultures. According to the Mediterranean Culture, the ancient lands of civilizations, it also has a special meaning which involves holy values such as plentifulness, peace, mind, longevity, and maturity. The commercial production rate of olive by cities, which is the a of our tables and part of our culture is as follows:  İzmir (13%), Manisa (12,5%), Balıkesir (12,5%), Aydın (12%), Muğla (10%), Çanakkale (%7) and Bursa (%5).

NOTES

Liquid Gold Olive Oil
It is accepted that the existence of the olive tree is as old as the history of mankind and it is said in the researches that “Olive is the first of all trees.” The etymological origin of Olive, which belongs to the Oleaceae family, comes from the Greek word “elaia” or Latin word “olea”  The trees, whose height varies between 2-10 meters have primarily green fruits, which turn to purple as they ripen.  Olive trees have a long life span and usually live for 300-400 years, some genera are known to live for 2000 years.

Olive Tree
The fruit of the olive oil which has a ramulose form, is green at first, turns purple and then black during the ripening process. Olive trees, which are highly resistant to decay, yield abundant crops for one year in the routine period, while relatively fewer crops for the other year depending on geographical location and agricultural practices. Since it has a variable ripening rate, it is difficult to talk about an average harvest period.

A Mythos Symbol “Olive”
In Paganism, an ancient form of belief that dates back to nature religions, the olive fruit, which was presented to the gods on the altars, turns into a form that used olive oil as lighteners in Ancient Egypt and Greek religious rituals. It is rumoured that Achilles, one of the Trojan heroes of the Iliad, put olive oil into the mane of his horses. In Greek mythology, goddesses give birth to their children in the shadow of an olive tree. The birth of a boy is announced by hanging olive branches at the entrance of the house. In the Roman Empire, a commander who won the war was crowned with olive branches and this ritual was also applied to gladiators who defeated their opponents.

Olive Production In Turkey
Aegean Region, which meets 53% of the annual olive demand in Turkey, has turned the gastronomic value in a trade and is followed by Mediterranean Region (23%), Marmara Region (18 %) and Southeast Anatolia Region (6 %). Since the gastronomic content and acidic values of Aegean and Marmara olives are different from each other, their usage areas also varied. While 55% of the olives produced in the Aegean Region are used in olive oil production, it is known that olives grown in the Marmara Region are mostly used for table consumption.

Mediterranean and Olive Culture
Olive and olive oil is the symbol of Mediterranean history and civilizations. ll archaeological studies and mythological stories reveal that the regional culture is integrated with olives. Throughout history, it has been a subject of art, religions, myths, and legends while preserving its importance as a food and trade product. It is the epitome of health, cleanliness, beauty, and blessing.


*This article was  published in the  November-December issue of Marmara Life. 

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