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The major paper for Geo 509 requires each student to prepare of a single plant or animal in the human diet that traces its geographical origins and dispersion, comments on its culinary, social, political and economic impact and supports the narrative with maps and other appropriate illustrative materials.

Origin and Dispersion of the Plant

The “Olive” has a long evolutionary history and it cultivation practices dates back to 6000 years along the Mediterranean Coasts. The exact origin of the olive is not known, yet it is believed to be originated from the regions of Syria or around the Sahara desert in Africa. The Olive has been mostly used for extraction of oil and table consumption and has found its way into various cuisines to imitate the Mediterranean flavor. The taxonomical classification according to the various strains of Olives is generally known as ‘Cultivars’. The various cultivars are identified based on their origin, flavour and cultivation (Ben?Ayed, Kamoun?Grati, & Rebai, 2013). The cultivars are generally named after their region of origin. Olive being an exotic fruit is generally restricted to the Mediterranean region and few instances of olive cultivation is found in the Chile, Argentina, southern Africa and Australia. The necessary conditions for the growth of the olive being greatly different, the growth is favored in the dry and mildly hot. The Olive plant is the only plant growing in abundance in the region and the major share of global production comes from the Mediterranean region. The current global cultivation of Olive is expanded over 23 million acres in the Mediterranean basin and around 1.5 million tons per year is produced annually from the region.

The paper attempts to understand the origin of the Olive plant and trace its dispersion around the different parts of the world. The paper will also look into the use of Olive and Olive Oil in the various cuisines around the world and its application in fields other than culinary and diet. The various other impacts created by the Olive industry will also be reviewed and evaluated on the basis of its origin and location. The various olive cultivars will be studied and their impact and influence in the culinary and other industries will be studied.

The methodology followed for the research will be done mostly on peer reviewed journals from secondary sources. No primary sources or field visits will be done for the research. The research will also be done based on culinary experiences across the world and evaluating cuisines based on olive and its application. The Olive production is one of the major sources of economy for the Mediterranean countries and the global production is also controlled on the basis of the production in this region.

The origin of the Olive Plant is believed to be in the sub tropical region which experiences moderate climate with very less amount of wet seasons. The regional flora is largely restricted and Olive being the abundant vegetation in the region got predominantly cultivated. Evidences of Olive has been found since Neolithic age and traces were found in the Mesopotamian civilization, the Egyptian civilization and Greeks and the Romans were believed to use to it extensively and gave high importance to the plant. Tough the exact origin of the tree cannot be traced back, extremely ancient archeological evidences are found that prove the use of Olives and Olive oils in the region. By the time the plant was being was being extensively utilised by the Romans and the later the Arabs, the Olive tree had already established its dominance in the region. The plant was extensively used and was dedicated to Greek Gods to reflect its high importance (Adoptyourolivetree.com. 2018). The initial dispersion of the Olive tree is believed to be done by the Greeks by trading to other civilizations and to their colonies. The expansions of the farming of Olive trees were first done by the Romans in the Iberian Peninsula currently included in the parts of Spain and Portugal. The later expansion of the Olive production was later promoted by initial imports from Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal. The current global production of Olive oil traces the dispersion of the Olive tree apart from the Mediterranean countries. These include Saudi Arabia, Australia, Brazil, Chile, China, USA, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Russia, Syria, Switzerland, and Taiwan. Apart from the anthropogenic transportation of the plant, the dispersion among the wild was mostly conducted by birds that swallowed the Olives and the excreta transported resulted in the natural growth of the olive trees. The dispersion happened over a long period of time and during the medieval time (Uyla?er, & Yildiz, 2014). After the discovery of America, Olive cultivation was expanded to the continent from the Mediterranean regions and first cultivation was done in the regions of Peru, Chile, Argentina and Mexico. Researches by Diez et al and Besnard et al go around tracing the genetic distribution of the plant across varying regions and identify that the various genetic cultivars available today have been due to the long history of cultivation and cross breeding of the plant over the human history. They have researched the evolution and concluded that the cultivated variety of the plant had been an outcome of cross breeding of various wild varieties; however the reason behind the crossing of the varieties could not be traced to human or natural interference. The current legacy of the Olive tree is being carried forward by a Nongovernmental Organisation named as the “Routes of the Olive Tree”, (THE ROUTES OF THE OLIVE TREE - LES ROUTES DE L'OLIVIER. 2018) which looks after the expansion and promotion of the Olive tree and olive Products including the ‘Olive Oil’ through research, cultural itineraries, protection and development of the Olive tree. It also looks up to the expansion of the Olive culture among non Olive promoting countries. Though the Olive cultivation has spread to other parts of the world in the recent days, yet the finest quality of Olive Oil and table olives still restricts to the Mediterranean region.

The Social, Cultural, and Economic Effect

The culinary importance of the Olea europaea; the European Olive tree was not largely explored except using of the Olive Oil. Table Olives have been used since the late medieval times.  The first use of olive oil was for lamp oil and later the culinary essence was regarded due to its flavour. The use of Olive in culinary and cuisines originated from Mediterranean diet and therefore the major cuisines including olive have Mediterranean flavours. Mostly the olives are used as salad dressing and toppings in Pizzas and Pastas. The Olive Oil is majorly used in culinary preparations and have been long been used for the salad dressing and topping and seasoning of cuisines. Based on their variety, 19 different varieties of olive oils are produced globally. The culinary application of Olive Oil varies from region to region and from country to country (Vossen, 2013). The Culinary application of Olive oil is dominated by Extra Virgin olive Oil, which is obtained by the cold pressing of the Olives without any mechanical or artificial processing. The oil is extensively used in almost all Mediterranean cuisines. As salad drippings to salad toppings, the oil has added to the exotic flavour of the Mediterranean (Aparicio, & Harwood, 2013). With cultivation of Olive spreading across the Roman Empire, the culinary uses and applications of the oil also spread first to Italy, and gradually to France, Spain and the entire Mediterranean basin. These regions added their exotic flavours by using Olive oil in a unique way differing from their neighbors. Apart from dressings and toppings, Olive Oils have been extensively used to lubricating foods for cooking, as a flavoring agent, as a marinade and generally in sautéing. The extensive use of olive oil in preserving dried fruits and vegetables as tomatoes and chilies are common and extensive. Several recipes and roasting require seasoning with olive oil as a lubrication and taste (Donahue, 2016).

The social impact of the olive is certainly unfathomable and has been given high importance since its origin. The Greek mythologies describes that the Olive was the gift of Athena and had been gifted to athletes and thus the tradition of gifting Olive branches and twigs to the Olympians started. The olive was also used to honour the dead and twigs or branches of olives were put in the tombs of the dead. The association of the Olive tree and the olive oil to the cultural, social and economic aspect of the Greeks and the Romans signify the importance of the olive trees. Even today the Olympic winners are crowned with the olive wreaths, which emphasize the importance of Olive in the lives of the Mediterranean people. The extensive application of the olive oil in various fields has made its induction into religious rituals giving it more signified value. The oil has been extensively used to make sacred oils to embalm bodies and also in various rituals of Christianity, Judaism and Jewish practices. Thus it can be understood that Olive have had gained great importance in the social lives of the humans.

Olive in Cuisines

The economy of the Mediterranean is greatly influenced by the olive trade in the region. The exporting of the olive oil by the countries of the Mediterranean region is one of the major sources of income of the income of the Mediterranean countries. A look at the production of major Olive oil producing countries and their contribution to the global Olive trade reflects the economic impact that is created Olive production and olive trees. The Global Olive production was estimated at 3311.5 thousand tonnes in the year 2017-18 by the non major countries (Internationaloliveoil.org. 2018), while the major oil producing countries amounted to 578 thousand tonnes of the olive production, mostly including the European countries of the major countries of Spain, Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Malta and France contributed 573 thousand tonnes to the European production. The report reflects the amount of olive oil exported by the countries and excludes the domestic consumption (Internationaloliveoil.org. 2018). The global Olive production and regulation is being managed by the International Olive Council or the IOC and the European Market prices are regulated by the council. The amount of production reflects the economic importance that the olives have in the economy of the region.  The political impact of the olive can be attributed to the fake oil production and adulteration. The economic value of the extra virgin oil in the international market is significantly huge and therefore the high cases of adulteration and fake oil are found every year. To address these issues, the IOC or the International Olive Council has revised the labeling policies of the product which requires mentioning of the farm and mill where the oil is being produced (Internationaloliveoil.org. 2018). The United States have developed their own regulatory measures to control and regulate production in the region. The North American Olive oil Association or the NAOOA has set specific standards to control and regulate quality and standards of the olive oil in the region. The standards are somewhat similar to the IOC. The trade competition of the major producing countries with those from the non Mediterranean countries have created a political conflict in the Olive trade and the IOC along with the NAOOA looks after to settle these issues with mutual agreement among the countries (Internationaloliveoil.org. 2018).

Conclusion

The Olive Oil and Table Olives production being restricted to the Mediterranean region has given the commodity an exotic status. The paper has reviewed the various sources that undergo to trace the history of the Olive tree and the Olive Oil. The origin of the Olive tree, the processing of the oil since the age of time and various uses of the oil including culinary and other applications have been evaluated in the paper. The nature of the global trade being subjected to the olive production in the region, the importance and the impact created by the Olive Oil in the economy of the Mediterranean region has also been evaluated in the region. The paper has not evaluated the various cultivars and the difference they create in the quality of the oil and remains a scope to research. Along with the potential of the olive production in non producing countries have also not been studied which creates scope to reflect in this aspect of the production. The importance of the Olive will continue to exist in the social and the cultural sphere of the Mediterranean region and it is expected that this interest will grow with the years to come.

References 

Adoptyourolivetree.com. (2018). History of olive oil - The Oil. Retrieved from https://www.adoptyourolivetree.com/shop/facts-main/history-of-olive-oil

Aparicio, R., & Harwood, J. (2013). Handbook of olive oil. Analysis and properties. 2nd ed Springer, New York.

Ben?Ayed, R., Kamoun?Grati, N., & Rebai, A. (2013). An overview of the authentication of olive tree and oil. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, 12(2), 218-227.

Besnard, G., Khadari, B., Navascués, M., Fernández-Mazuecos, M., El Bakkali, A., Arrigo, N., ... & Savolainen, V. (2013). The complex history of the olive tree: from Late Quaternary diversification of Mediterranean lineages to primary domestication in the northern Levant. Proc. R. Soc. B, 280(1756), 20122833.

Diez, C. M., Trujillo, I., Martinez?Urdiroz, N., Barranco, D., Rallo, L., Marfil, P., & Gaut, B. S. (2015). Olive domestication and diversification in the Mediterranean Basin. New Phytologist, 206(1), 436-447.

Donahue, J. F. (2016). Culinary and Medicinal Uses of Wine and Olive Oil. A Companion to Science, Technology, and Medicine in Ancient Greece and Rome, 605-617.

Grigg, D. (2001). Olive oil, the Mediterranean and the world. GeoJournal, 53(2), 163-172.

Internationaloliveoil.org. (2018). EU Producer Prices - International Olive Council. Retrieved from https://www.internationaloliveoil.org/estaticos/view/133-eu-producer-prices

Internationaloliveoil.org. (2018). Microsite - International Olive Council. Retrieved from https://www.internationaloliveoil.org/estaticos/view/147-microsite

Olive Oil Times. (2018). Olive Oil Industry Megatrends. Retrieved from https://www.oliveoiltimes.com/opinion/olive-oil-industry-megatrends/35603

Tardi, A. (2014). The culinary uses of extra?virgin olive oil. The extra?virgin olive oil handbook, 321-337.

THE ROUTES OF THE OLIVE TREE - LES ROUTES DE L'OLIVIER. (2018). ΔΡΟΜΟΙ ΤΗΣ ΕΛΙΑΣ - THE ROUTES OF THE OLIVE TREE - LES ROUTES DE L'OLIVIER. Retrieved from https://olivetreeroute.gr/en/

Uyla?er, V., & Yildiz, G. (2014). The historical development and nutritional importance of olive and olive oil constituted an important part of the Mediterranean diet. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, 54(8), 1092-1101.

Vossen, P. (2013). Growing olives for oil. In Handbook of Olive Oil (pp. 19-56). Springer, Boston, MA.

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[Accessed 05 March 2024].

My Assignment Help. 'Geographical Origins And Dispersion, Culinary Impact, And Other Applications Of The Olive Plant' (My Assignment Help, 2021) <https://myassignmenthelp.com/free-samples/geo509-food-place-and-identity/the-olive-story.html> accessed 05 March 2024.

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