Olive trees are
almost everywhere around the peninsula and most of them are
harvested for the oil, which is for cooking and making soap.
In some of the villages you can find many over 300-500 years
of age and rarely over 1000.
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The olive tree,
Olea europaea, is
very hardy: drought-, disease- and fire-resistant, it can
live to a great age. Its root system is robust and capable
of regenerating the tree even if the above-ground structure
The wild olive tree originated in Asia Minor
where it is extremely abundant and grows in thick forests. It appears to have
spread from Syria to Greece via Anatolia (De Candolle, 1883) although other
hypotheses point to lower Egypt, Nubia, Ethiopia, the Atlas Mountains or certain
areas of Europe as its source area. Caruso for that reason believed it to be
indigenous to the entire Mediterranean Basin and considers Asia Minor to have
been the birthplace of the cultivated olive some six millennia ago. The
Assyrians and Babylonians were the only ancient civilisations in the area who
were not familiar with the olive tree.
The older an olive tree is, the broader and
more gnarled its trunk appears. Many olive trees in the
groves around the Mediterranean are said to be hundreds of
years old, while an age of 2,000 years is claimed for a
number of individual trees; in some cases, this has been
scientifically verified.The olive tree is native to the Mediterranean region and Western Asia, and
spread to nearby countries from there. It is estimated the cultivation of olive
trees began more than 7000 years ago. As far back as 3000 BC, olives were grown
commercially in Crete; they may have been the source of the wealth of the Minoan
civilization. The ancient Greeks used to smear olive oil on their bodies and
hair as a matter of grooming and good health.