Although considered sacred by the people of the Mediterranean for thousands of years, the precise origins of the olive tree are somewhat mysterious. What is known is that cultivation began a very long time ago somewhere in the Near East and spread slowly westward across the Mediterranean Sea. The Egyptians, Phoenicians, Greeks, and Romans all played a part in the dissemination of the olive.
Appreciation of olive oil as food and for health and beauty became a regular part of these cultures. With the spread of the Roman Empire throughout the Mediterranean, olive oil became a significant trade commodity for the ancient world.
Like so many things, the Western hemisphere was introduced to olives by the Spanish and Portuguese. By the late 18th century, the Franciscan missionaries were establishing groves in California. Olives happen to grow well anywhere that grapes grow well.
One of the significant differences between olive oil and seed oils is that olive oil production can be completed from start to finish using only mechanical processes, without the aid of chemicals. In fact, the definition of virgin olive oils states explicitly no added heat or compounds can be used in production.
High grade extra virgin oil, especially if cold extracted, has around 30 polyphenols that act as antioxidants, which reduce inflammation and help reduce the effects of aging particularly on the heart and brain. Eating extra virgin olive oil as part of a diverse Mediterranean diet is proven to be beneficial for many aspects of adult health.
Although olive oil is typically healthier than other oils, it can turn your sound strategy into an unhealthy one quickly if you aren’t careful. As with any fat, consume it in moderation.
Of course, Paymon’s Mediterranean Restaurant prepares many of the menu items with olive oil, but it is especially evident as part of our hummus, baba ganoush, and our lebni, which are all drizzled with healthy amounts of delicious cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil. Come in and try some with warm pita bread soon!