The olive tree is unique tree. It is an evergreen and grows in subtropical climates all over the world to between 10 and 40 feet tall in size. It produces white flowers towards the end of spring which bear olives.
With olive tree cultivation patience is key. They must mature for at least 15 years to roduce a worthwhile crop but past this stage they can produce quality olives for the next 65 years or so and live for long after that, even to be hundreds of years old. Italy is considered the world leader in quality of olive oil and is also number one in the product’s consumption.
Olive trees where introduced in Italy, specifically Sicily, through the movements and expansion of the Greek diaspora around 800 Be. Once Greek control dwindled and the Mediterranean came under the Roman Empire olive oil production took hold in Italy. And Italian olive oil passed its historical Greek counterpart in quality and taste as early as the first century AD. The Roman historian Pliny, is said to have declared that Italian olive oil was “the best in the Mediterranean,” (Olive Oil History 1).
When the Roman Empire fell, the industry around olive oil, like many other industries, was nearly destroyed. Olive cultivation suffered huge declines, and the Barbarian invasions brought butter into an area of the world that had untlll then relied on olive 011. Yet, olive 011 survived. This was due to several reasons.
The olive tree and the oil it produces was of great importance within the Catholic Church. In fact, religious communities in Italy were key to helping olive oil to regain its status and encouraged the continued cultivation of olives in the country.