History of Olive Oil
Olive oil is an ancient and historic creation. The oil comes from trees grown mainly in the Mediterranean, but has traveled throughout the world. Produced mainly in Spain, Greece and Italy, olive oil is sought-after and coveted for cooking, skin products and general health in every culture.
Olive oil has been called liquid gold by the ancient Greeks. It has been given magical properties by many religions and has served medicinal purposes in most cultures. Olive oil is a pure oil produced from olives which has become a mythical elixir all over the world.
Olive oil and its production dates back almost five thousand years in human history. In 3500 BC, the production of olive oil was documented in places like Crete and Greece. The oil gained popularity as it traveled the world on Greek and Roman ships. Through wars and dynasties, enlightenment and destruction, olive oil has survived in human culture. The ancient Egyptians prized the oil for its healing properties and for skin beautification. The ancient Greek athletes rubbed olive oil over their bodies before Olympic sporting events. King Solomon and King David placed guards in the olive groves to protect the trees from fire or theft.
Olive oil is produced today in much the same way as it was in ancient cultures. The best olive oils are cold pressed and require no chemical processing. Even heat processing is avoided when creating extra virgin olive oil. Olive oil contains large amounts of vitamin E and antioxidants which are extremely healthy for cooking. The oil from olives is retrieved through a crushing or pressing process which begins in a mill. Giant millstones exert tremendous pressure on the olives, smashing them into a paste. From this paste, drops of oil are collected. The process is slow, but there is no loss of vitamins or flavor when this method is used. Many olives are removed from trees by hand, even today.
Olive oil is a natural immune system booster. It is easily digested by the human body and loses very little of its healthy properties even when heated during cooking. Olive oil is high in fat, but the fat is monounsaturated and very healthy. Replacing butter or margarine with olive oil is thought to be a healthy way to include fat in a diet. Since olive oil is so full of vitamins and antioxidants, it is thought to help with heart function. Studies have shown that adding olive oil to a diet can decrease cholesterol as much as fish oils do.
Olive oil is an ingredient in many natural cosmetics. Due to its clarity and refined nature, extra virgin olive oil is used in many natural facial moisturizers. Olive oil mixed with castor oil is thought to penetrate the skin and restore life to skin cells. Olive oil also has many healing properties and is still used for burn salves and to coat areas of skin which are damaged or scraped. Olive oil is said to reduce scarring and stretch-marks for pregnant women when rubbed onto the stomach area. Warm olive oil is used for earaches and to help remove ear wax. The oil has so many uses that other oils cannot begin to compare.
Many religious ceremonies incorporate the use of olive oil because of its purity. In Catholic churches, olive oil is used during catechism ceremonies and baptisms. In Islam, olive oil is mentioned as a sacred oil for anointing the body. In Judaism, olive oil is the only oil that is used to provide fuel to the Menorah during Mishkan service.
One of the largest uses of olive oil is for cooking, of course. Extra virgin olive oil is used in the finest salad dressings and sauces. Many world-class chefs use extra virgin olive oil to saute or fry. Olive oil is known for its clarity and flavor. Many infused items, like dressings, are made from olive oil. Dipping fresh bread into infused olive oil is considered to be one of the best ways to enjoy the oil.
With all of its uses and popularity, olive oil is still considered one of the delicious wonders of the food world. The fruit comes from a hardy tree which grows in places unsuitable for any other crop. It is easily removed from the tree and refined without chemicals. Olives and olive oil might be one of the world’s most perfect foods.
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