This article was written by Phineas Upham
It’s possible that olive domestication goes back 6,000 years, potentially more. But why cultivate such a bitter plant, and how did the olive become the center of Mediterranean cuisine? The oil that comes from the olive may have something to do with it, although production dates back only 2,500 years.
Olive oil has found several uses in past and contemporary society. Cities used to burn it as fuel for lamps. Pharmacists used it as a base ingredient in healing ointments, and it was used to anoint royalty. The term “Messiah” means “anointed one,” which may be a reference to the importance of olive oil.
Cooking with olive oil may not have come about until the 4th or 5th century, where the practice is first mentioned by Plato.
Making the oil involved several stages of work. Olives needed to be harvested first, but they were sometimes beaten right off the tree. Then olives were washed and the pits removed. This was usually done by hand, but machines exist today that help the process. The remaining olives were placed into baskets (pouches today) and then pressed. Hot water is poured over the pulp, washing away the pulp and forcing out any remaining oils. After the oil in these casks settled and separated, a hole was poked in the base of the cask and oil was collected as it poured out.
Ancient civilizations used some rudimentary machines in the production of olive oil. Decanters were used, and milling stones helped to press the olive pulp. The Greeks and Romans were especially fond of olive oil and created several kinds of machines to speed up the production.
About the Author: Phineas Upham is an investor at a family office/hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phineas Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media & Technology group. You may contact Phineas on his LinedIn page.