Olive (near Morganitina, Sicily)

Three years ago we visited the ancient Greek (later Roman) city of Morgantina. We ate our pranza (lunch) under this olive tree that shaded the parking lot. Olives seem to epitomize Italy and Sicily to me. Olives (and their flavorful oil) are an essential part of everyday life in Sicily — and also here in our California home.

Garden Alphabet: Olive (near Morganitina, Sicily)

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 The olive (Listeni/ˈɒlɪv/ or Listeni/ˈɑːləv/Olea europaea, meaning “olive from/of Europe”) is a species of small tree in the family Oleaceae, found in much of Africa, the Mediterranean Basin from Portugal to the Levant, the Arabian Peninsula, and southern Asia as far east as China, as well as the Canary IslandsMauritius and Réunion. The species is cultivated in many places and considered naturalized in FranceCorsicaCrimeaEgyptIranIraqSyriaJavaNorfolk IslandCalifornia and Bermuda.[1][2]

Its fruit, also called the olive, is of major agricultural importance in the Mediterranean region as the source of olive oil. The tree and its fruit give its name to the plant family, which also includes species such as lilacsjasmineForsythia and the true ash trees (Fraxinus). The word derives from Latin ŏlīva (“olive fruit”, “olive tree”; “olive oil” isŏlĕum)[3] which is cognate with the Greek ἐλαία (elaía, “olive fruit”, “olive tree”) and ἔλαιον (élaion, “olive oil”).[4][5] The oldest attested forms of the latter two words in Greek are respectively the Mycenaean.

The word “oil” in multiple languages ultimately derives from the name of this tree and its fruit.

The olive tree, Olea europaea, is an evergreen tree or shrub native to the MediterraneanAsia and Africa. It is short and squat, and rarely exceeds 8–15 m (26–49 ft) in height. However, the Pisciottana, a unique variety comprising 40,000 trees found only in the area around Pisciotta in the Campania region of southern Italy often exceeds this, with correspondingly large trunk diameters. The silvery green leaves are oblong, measuring 4–10 cm (1.6–3.9 in) long and 1–3 cm (0.39–1.18 in) wide. The trunk is typically gnarled and twisted.

The small white, feathery flowers, with ten-cleft calyx and corolla, two stamens and bifid stigma, are borne generally on the previous year’s wood, in racemes springing from the axils of the leaves.

The fruit is a small drupe 1–2.5 cm (0.39–0.98 in) long, thinner-fleshed and smaller in wild plants than in orchard cultivars. Olives are harvested in the green to purple stage. Canned black olives may contain chemicals (usually ferrous sulfate) that artificially turn them black. Olea europaea contains a seed commonly referred to in American English as a pit or a rock, and in British English as a stone. — Wikipedia

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Previously in Garden Alphabet: