a Love Letter to Olive

Olea europaea

Dear Olive,

Oh, to behold the new and old groves of you in California and Sicily—I didn’t know you could be so stately! Having first met you as a pitted green oval thing with a pimento stuffed inside, then later as a soggy black lye-cured fruit from a can, I really had no idea what a majestic being you are, Olive.

I grew up on Wesson cottonseed oil and when I discovered your flavorful, golden oil in college, I was intrigued. My previous association with you was as Popeye’s wife, I am embarrassed to say. You were described as a virgin or an Extra virgin and even though I looked that up in my set of Encyclopædia Britannicas, the meaning of extra virgin olive oil wasn’t there. It took me a while to find somebody who could explain to me what made you virgin. Seems our blemished cottonseed oil never got such a title.

I honestly didn’t even think about what form you took- bush, briar, small plant, vine or what- to make your fruit, until I was in my twenties. And it wasn’t until then that I actually ate a real one of your fruits- not a canned, pitted one, but a gourmet, warmed, Greek olive that had been sun-cured. ‘This plant is powerful,’ I remember thinking of you.

Niçoise, Nyon, Cerignola, Kalamata, Castelvetrano, Alfanso, Mission, Manzanilla- these are some of the names we call your olives, depending upon where they were grown—some more bitter, others sweeter, all full-bodied and enjoyed in salads, tapenade, martinis, stews and as finger foods. You are a delicacy enjoyed worldwide. And thank you for your gorgeous, gorgeous wood- oh the waves in the grain, polished with your own oil! You are glorious!

Thank you for giving your oil for more than food- we use it to clean out our guts, and your leaves have been made into…

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