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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