Organic Olives


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Jasmine, lilac, oleander, and ash are relatives of the olive. Strangely, wild olive trees are not olives in their native form, but cultivated olive trees that have gone feral, much the way a dog brought up without humans may become a wild dog, but will not become a wolf.

Only a tenth of the world's production of olives escape being pressed into olive oil. Olives were first brought to California by the Mission fathers, probably by around 1785. By the 1880s, olives were beginning to be farmed commercially in California, and the Quito Ranch in Los Gatos (today a bedroom community for Silicon Valley) used whale oil soap to cleanse its 80 acres of olives of the black scale pest.

In Greece and other countries around the Levant, olives are traditionally only eaten as appetizers. However, in Morroco and the northwestern Mediterranean, olives are integral parts of many dishes: the strongly-flavored stews called tagines are described as "smothered in olives".

A 13th-century Iraqi recipe suggests slow baking black olives for 24 hours alongside a tray containing mixture of pounded garlic, dry thyme, and walnuts. Once the olives are removed from the oven, they should be seasoned with sesame oil, crushed walnuts, toasted sesame seeds, and more garlic and thyme. Sounds like it would be great smeared on a chunk of sourdough baguette.