The History of the Olive.

Take an olive journey: from the first trees (shrubs, actually) in Syria and Asia Minor 8,000 years ago, to the introduction of the olive in California in the late 18th century, to your table today.

History of the Olive Tree and the Olive

The olive tree has been in existence for nearly 8,000 years and is an ancient symbol of abundance, glory and peace. It is one of the oldest known cultivated trees in the world—grown before written language was even developed. No wonder it is one of the plants most cited in literature. In Homer's Odyssey, Odysseus is said to have crawled under two olive branches that grew from a single stock. And Homer himself refers to olive oil as "liquid gold."

A native to Syria and Asia Minor, the first olives were picked from a shrub. So when the Assyrians discovered that a flavorful oil could be pressed from this fruit, they decided to cultivate it. Eventually it flourished and evolved into the hearty tree we know today. Although the olive tree grows very slowly and requires careful cultivation, its longevity rewards many generations of farmers. Amazingly, olive trees over a thousand years old still exist today in many parts of the world.

The Olive in California

The history of olive farming in California is believed to have started in the late 18th century. At that time, the Spanish Jesuits brought olive cuttings to the missions in Mexico. As the missionaries gradually spread north into California, so did the olive tree.

Between 1769 and 1823, olive farming flourished at the 21 missions located between San Diego and Sonoma. The variety cultivated from this harvest was named "Mission" and so we have the Mission variety. And it was around the year 1900 that Mrs. Freda Ehmann invented the ripe olive process while working on her back porch. A few years later Mrs. Ehmann built a factory in Oroville and so the California Olive Industry was born.