Flowering olive branch. Click on image to enlarge.
Serving Bowls with Olive motif.
Small Bowl: 7 1/2" dia. x 3 3/4" h.
Medium Large Bowl: 8 1/2" dia. x 4 1/2" h.
Large Bowl: 10" dia. x 5 1/2" h.
"The olive is a culinary delight and a quintessential part of France's Provence region. I often visit my family in the south of France and always rejoice at seeing the bright, warm colors that are typical of this area. Every morning when we go shopping at the open market we see the many varieties of olives displayed beautifully on the merchant's tables.
Olives are an intrinsic part of everyday life in Provence, particularly in the fall and winter when the olive harvest is underway. Their textures vary from firm to fleshy and their size and shape from tiny ovals to half-moons, and larger, fat rounds.
According to legend, the goddess Athena endowed the ancient Greeks with two gifts: wisdom and olives. The Greeks, in turn, graced France's Mediterranean coast with the olive tree in about 6000 b.c. It has flourished in the local rocky, sun-baked soil ever since." -Frédérique Lavios, artist
The Olive is the fruit of the Olive tree (Olea europaea) and is a major component of the agriculture and gastronomy of many countries adjoining the Mediterranean Sea in Europe, North Africa and Asia Minor.
In the Homeric world, as depicted in the Iliad, olive oil is known only as a luxury of the wealthy--an exotic product, prized chiefly for its value in grooming; warriors would anoint themselves after bathing, and the body of Patroclus is described as being oiled in this way. But no mention of the cultivation of the plant is made, whereas a vineyard is mentioned in the description of Achilles' shield. But, although no reference to the cultivation of the olive occurs in the Iliad, the presence of the tree in the garden of Alcinous and other allusions show it to have been known when the Odyssey was written.
Gourmets from the Roman empire to the present day have valued the unripe fruit, steeped in brine, as challenging to the palate Pickled olives, retaining their characteristic flavor, have been found among the buried stores of Pompeii. Note also that the green olive and black olive are from the same plant; green olives are pickled before being ripened, black olives after.
The bitter juice deposited during pressing of the oil (called amurca), and the astringent leaves of the tree have many virtues attributed to them by ancient authors. The oil of the bitter wild olive was employed by Roman physicians in medicine, but does not appear ever to have had a culinary use.