Olive trees, Olea europaea (family Oleaceae), are ancient and subtropical evergreens that have been known to humans for centuries. These trees can range in height from 3 m to 12 m and are linked to various cultures and traditions worldwide. Native to the Mediterranean region, the olive tree can be traced back 3500 years B.C. to the island of Crete and later in the Roman empire. These trees bloom in the late spring months, producing two types of white flowers. The first type includes both male and female components, which can be easily pollinated and go on to develop fruit. The second type involves only the male portion and can produce pollen needed to pollinate other flowers via wind. However, young trees do not typically produce fruit until they’ve reached 4 years. This resilient tree is able to withstand decay and a new tree can emerge from the roots if the original tree were to rot or die.
Although it is most commonly known for its fruit, the olive, it is also used for medicinal, culinary, cosmetic and industrial purposes. Olives can be bought and consumed as green and unripe fruit or black and ripe. Regardless of their state of ripeness, olives undergo processing before they are sold to the public. Unprocessed olives are not typically consumed due to the presence of glucoside chemical that produces an extremely bitter taste, which is eliminated throughout processing. In the case of olive oil production, olives are left to ripen before being picked. The primary olive oil-producing nations are Spain, Italy and Greece. Other significant producers of olives include Turkey, Tunisia, Morocco, Syria and Portugal, which together have over 500 million olive trees.
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