The History of Olives

There is an entirely different energy around olive oil than there is for the other products on Frog Hollow Farm. There is something more to olive oil that comes from, not only its unique health benefits and other healing qualities but also its long and important history.

Farmer Al gave me a book along with his enthusiasm of olives. The book is called “Olives: The Life & Lore of a Noble Fruit” and although I have to be honest that I haven’t finished it yet I wanted to share the first sentence - “An olive, to many, is no more than a humble lump at the bottom of a martini. Yet a closer look reveals a portrait in miniature of the richest parts of our world”.

Along the lines of the olive existing as a mini-reflection of history and culture, one thing that really fascinated me about this book were the politics of the olive. According to Christopher Dickey (a Middle East and Mediterranean specialist), you can trace the rise and fall of olive production with the ‘civilizing’ and ‘destabilizing’ of ancient societies. He connects olive trade with why Arabs have never managed to make peace among themselves and why Roman Emperors conquered Sicily.

Although, olives are no longer a political driving-force around the world, there are 800 million olive trees in the world and it is a 10 billion dollar business. Americans are growing this business by eating more olive oil (they are increasing olive oil consumption by an average of 12% yearly). Because of the olive’s long history in the Mediterranean, most of the olive oil consumed in the United States is imported from Europe (we only produce 0.5% of the world’s olive oil).

So when Farmer Al committed to growing Italian-based olives locally, he wanted to respect deeply the traditional growing techniques of the Italian olive. Chef Becky and Farmer Al visited history-rich Italy to understand and learn the methods of olive production. When they returned from their trip, they chose four Tuscan varieties to grow in their Brentwood, California, soil – Frantoio, Leccino, Maurino, and Pendolino. Try the new, freshly pressed oil today. 


- By Katie Gronsky, cited from "Olives: The Life & Lore of a Noble Fruit"

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