The olive trees (Olea europaea) history has been traced back 6,000 years. By 3,500 B.C. the tree's cultivation had spread to Crete, Africa, Greece and southern Europe. It was widely cultivated and flourished throughout the Mediterranean. The production of olive oil was valued as a food source, for lamp oil and as an oil to be applied to the body.
Olive Tree Growth
The olive tree is an evergreen that grows approximately 16 feet tall. The root system of the tree is immense as the tree burrows down and out in search of water through rocky, often barren regions. The tree flowers in May. Flower production does not begin until the tree reaches six years of age and then will continue until the tree is ancient.
The Olive Tree And Jewish Culture
The olive tree's history is deeply woven with the Jewish people of Israel. The Bible says the dove who returned to the ark bore an olive branch within its beak as proof of land for Noah. It was proclaimed to the Jewish people that the Promised Land of Israel would be the "land of olive trees and honey." The olive tree has become a powerful symbol of peace to the Israeli people. Olive oil was believed to light the lamps at the temple in Jerusalem before its destruction.
Olive Oil And Annointing
Throughout history, olive oil has been used to anoint kings, prophets, holy places and later in baptism. Anointing with olive oil was believed to indicate that the item was holy and sanctified. The oil is commonly used during Christmas mass by the Catholic Church. Greeks would anoint athletes who performed well with olive oil. Later the winners of the Olympics would wear olive wreath crowns instead of being anointed.
Olive Trees And Christianity
Biblical scholars believe Jesus ascended to heaven on the Mount of Olives outside Jerusalem, an ancient olive grove. It is also believed that he prayed on the Mount of Olives the night before his crucifixion. The garden of Gethsemane still exists today and it is believed to contain the same ancient olive trees that Jesus sat among. Many sections of the New Testament state that Jesus often sought refuge within an olive groves shade.
Franciscans And The Olive Tree
The Franciscans monks first brought the olive tree to California in the 1700s and planted one in 1769 at Mission San Diego de Alcala, according to the wevsite of the University of California, Davis. As they established Catholic missions throughout the state, the monks would plant groves of olive trees. Many of the original trees that the monks first planted still exist today and thrive.