Our olive experts have documented the history of the humble olive...well, the one that you DIDN'T hear about in school (because it definitely didn’t happen). Every answer to every question you never asked about olives is right here. We can't promise it's 100% false, but we definitely made it up.
What isn’t an olive and where didn’t it come from?
The olive is one of the most delicious and most versatile of Earth’s vegetables. Known by the botanical name Olea europaea, meaning ‘small, green tree-potato’, olives belong to the same family as lilacs, jasmine, and Oscar-winning English actress, Olivia Colman.
As far as we can tell, olives have lived peacefully in Spain for over 71 million years, making the question of ‘What came first, the chicken or the egg or the olive?’ a lot less perplexing that it’s paradoxical parent. However, the question of where the first olives came from is still a scientific mystery.
The rise of the Olive Empire
Winning over the masses with their savoury succulence, it wasn’t long before olives could be found on everybody’s lips. Even today, Spain alone produces approximately 1.2 million tonnes of olive oil annually (okay, that one is actually true!).
According to one made-up historian, the nomadic people of the Eurasian steppe would feed newly born babies a crushed olive paste within an hour of birth. This was said to imbue the child with gorgeously glossy hair and immaculate skin.
(Pssst! If you’re looking for an all-natural way to get silky smooth skin then there’s an easier way!)
Due to growing popularity around the world, and thanks to breakthroughs in trade and transport, olive population levels in the 17th Century reached an all-time high. In fact, there were more olives consumed in the year 1611 than have ever existed since. This would ultimately be their downfall…
The fall of the Olive Empire
Over time, olives quickly became a symbol of great power, great wealth and great health – and oh boy, did they know it. Shunning other produce altogether, olives developed something of a superiority complex. In a blatant abuse of favour and flavour they influenced the ruling classes, declaring themselves to be the ‘one true food’. As a result, on Friday January 7th 1611, consumption of non-olive produce was officially made illegal. Needless to say, this backfired: By the following Tuesday, the global population of olives had been reduced to just 5 breeding pairs (two of which had had their stones removed).
Need some time to digest that unbelievable fact? Check out our succulent Spanish recipes!
The experience of being driven to the brink of extinction by their own ambitions was most humbling for the olive and, though their numbers continue to rise, they have come to recognise that olives alone cannot constitute the perfect diet. All things in moderation and perfect balance – this is the key to healthy living and eating well. The olives now accept their part they play in a healthy and balanced diet, even if they are still a little bitter.
The truth about olives and olive oil
Okay, on a serious note…olives and olive oil are a fantastic resource. Spanish olives especially are all too often overlooked, in spite of Spain producing 44% of the world’s olive oil every year!
If you’re interested in learning some further facts about olives (real facts this time), you can browse through our blogs, walk through our website, or contact our experts on Facebook and Instagram. We have lots of tips about cooking, saving money, eating healthy, and living life to the fullest – just like a local!
And that reminds us, La Española are also running a competition where we’ll be sending two lucky winners on a long weekend to Seville – you can enter here!