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Olive Oil History

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From Ancient Rome to families worldwide
Olive Oil is one of the pilars of Mediterranean diet since Ancient Greece and Rome, more than 3,000 years ago.
Source: Hojiblanca Group

The cultivation of olives and the production of olive oil have deep roots in the history of Spain. The olive, a symbol of peace, and the tree which produces olives (olea europea) are known to have been cultivated around the Mediterranean about 6000 years ago. Its origin could be the eastern Mediterranean, but most probably it originated in Greece. Stone tablets found dating back to 2500 BC from the court of King Minos of Crete make reference to this plant.

The olive tree was brought to the Iberian Peninsula by the Phoenicians and the Greeks. Olive cultivation was expanded considerably by the Romans, who also improved the techniques of oil production. Olive oil from Hispania was highly regarded by the inhabitants of Old Rome, as well as by the rest of the Roman Empire, that considered it of superior quality.

Later, the Arabs continued perfecting the technique of olive oil production. The importance of the Arab influence is evident by the fact that the Spanish word for oil - aceite - comes from the Arabic - al-zat-, or olive juice. As a result of a stable, thousand-year-old tradition, today Spain is the major producer and exporter of olive oil in the world.

Nevertheless, until a few years ago, Spanish olive oil was relatively unknown since almost all of it was sold by bulk and packaged outside the country. Today, gradually, oil producers, and especially those of the best quality oil, are packaging and placing their own names on the bottles, just as the producers of California wine are now selling more and more of their wine as their own product instead of selling the grapes. This is increasing considerably the knowledge and admiration for Spanish olive oil as an exceptional product.

Finally, the benefits of olive oil should be mentioned: through its oleic acid, it helps to reduce the level of bad cholesterol and increase the level of good cholesterol, it has a high contribution of Vitamin E, which prevents arteriosclerosis, and helps to reduce blood pressure, thereby helping to prevent thrombosis.
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