Sunday, December 13, 2009

Olives and Olive Oil

Fun Facts
- The olive and the olive branch is a symbol of abundance, glory, peace, wisdom, fertility, power and pureness.
- Olive branches were used to crown the victors of friendly games and bloody wars of the past.
- The olive tree and olives are mentioned in the Bible over 30 times (old and new testaments).
- The olive is praised as a precious fruit in the Quran. The olive tree and olive oil are mentioned in the Quran 7 times.
- Olive oil has long been considered sacred.
- Olive oil was used by the ancient Greeks to anoint kings and athletes.
- Olive oil was burned in sacred lamps in temples
- Olive oil was the 'eternal flame' of the original Olympic Games.
- It is estimated that olive tree cultivation started 7000 years ago.

Health Benefits
The health benefits of olive oil is due to the high concentration of monosaturated fatty acids and its high content of antioxidative substances.
- Olive oil offers protection against heart disease by
controls LDL (bad) cholesterol while raising HDL (good) cholesterol.
reducing inflammation, antithrombolitic, antihypertensive as well as dilating the vessels.
- Olive oil activates the secretion of bile and pancreatic hormones; lowering the incidence of gallstones.
- Lowers blood sugar and blood pressure.
- Reduces the oxidative damage to RNA and DNA, which may be a factor in reducing cancer.
- Olive oil offers benefits in preventing colon cancer.
- Mild laxative and ear wax softener.
- Olive oil is also used in skincare and hair beauty.

Green vs Black Olives
They are the same olive. The green olive has been picked before it is ripe whereas the black olive is picked when ripe.

Definitions of Olive Oil (Virgin, Extra Virgin, etc).
Well, this list is long and involved, so I refer you to this website:

Extraction of Olive Oil
First the fruit must be picked from the trees.
This is a time consuming-physical activity. The olives are picked by hand. There really is no other way of getting the olives off the trees. First the ground is thoroughly searched for any fruit that has already fallen (this takes the most time). Then a large tarp is laid on the ground around the tree. The person picking the olives starts near the trunk of the tree, places his hand around the branch, pinches the branch softly and rips his hand all the way down the branch as the olives fall onto the tarp. This is done over and over again until each branch is picked and each tree is empty. Just to give you an idea of how long this process takes: When my husband picked olives recently, on average he had four or five people helping him pick olives from 800am-430pm for 6 days. During this time they picked roughly 80 trees. These 80 trees gave him 44 large bags (about the size of the black garbage bags we use in the US) of olive fruit. This fruit was then processed into 20 containers (16 liters each) of olive oil). Each container sells for about 70JD, which is $100. At this time, we have 6 containers left to be sold.

Okay, so how did the fruit become olive oil?
-Olives are ground into a paste using large millstones.
-The olive paste is then placed onto fiber disks, which are stacked on top of each other into a column and then placed into the press.
-Then the oil is filtered to get out any remaining solid particles.
-Finally the olive oil is placed in large (16 liter) metal containers to be sold.

How to Cook With Olive Oil
In our home, we cook almost exclusively with olive oil. When recipes call for oil, most of the time I use olive oil although sometimes I will use half olive oil and half vegetable oil. We use olive oil when making our own salad dressings (olive oil, white vinegar, lemon, salt, pepper). We use olive oil to dip our bread in. I use olive oil when cooking noodles or rice. The only things I really don't use olive oil for is when frying vegetables or any other food; this destroys the composition of olive oil and it is no longer good for you. Here is another website that I found which may be interesting regarding cooking with olive oil.

We love olives and olive oil in this house. I hope if you are not using it currently, that you will start using it in your homes. It's delicious and great for your health! Hope you enjoyed my blog post about olives and olive oil!


  1. A lot of work! How long does it take the olives to ripen? Is there only 1 season a year? Do you know anything about the process that goes into the jars of olives we buy in the USA or do his dad's olives always turn into olive oil? Is his family involved in changing the fruit to olive oil? Very interesting! Love, Mom

  2. Mom, to answer your questions:

    ~There is only 1 season a year for olives.
    ~Olives start as a small flower in the spring and ripen through summer until late fall/early winter.
    ~I have 'canned' olives with Yanal's mom, so I can tell you about that process.
    ~His Dad's olive farms go for oil, but the trees around the house are used for 'canning' olives.
    ~Yanal's family sends the olives to the place to make it into oil, they do not do this themselves.

  3. I watched people make olive oil on "dirty jobs" once (discovery channel). It was pretty cool, and lots of work!!

  4. Hi Lindsay. That must have been a slow night for "Dirty Jobs" Usually the jobs they feature are the most disgusting jobs a person could imagine! Ha.