Here in the US, a lot of foods have their own month of celebration. April is soft pretzel month, July is Blueberry month, but August is our favorite time of the year; it’s National Olive Oil month! A month to recognize the cultural and historical importance that olive oil has had on people in the Mediterranean region and those that traded with them. Here are some quick facts on just how widespread and important olive oil has been in history.
- Oil produced from olives was probably first made 8000 years ago in present-day Israel. Some of the first civilizations to utilize farming and agriculture were already harvesting olives from the native trees.
- Ancient Egyptians imported olive oil from Syrian cities as a luxury item.
- Greece would start producing it’s own and use it for rituals, bathing, and as a prize for the original Olympic Games.
- The Roman Empire spread olive oil all over Europe, including the Celtic Tribes.
- The Christian Bible and Jewish Torah mention olive oil quite often and has been used as anointing oil as long as the religions have been around.
- The English word for oil comes from the Latin oleum which means specifically olive oil. So that makes the English “olive oil” sort of mean “olive olive oil.”
- Spain currently produces nearly half of the world’s olive oil due to their ideal climate and huge coastal regions.
- There is an international organization that sets standards for grading olive oil as virgin, extra-virgin, etc. However, the US is one of only a few countries that has it’s very own grading system. It was introduced just 6 years ago in 2010.
There you have it, a few tidbits on one of humankind’s favorite food! So celebrate the rich tradition of olive oil by adding it to a few unexpected meals this month, you might just find something new and delicious!