By Denise Cox
First published in Organic NZ May/June 2017
Olives (Olea europea) are evergreen trees native to Northern Africa. Cultivated since prehistoric times, olives are integral to the culture, diet and economies of the Mediterranean basin. Spain produces 45% of the world’s crop. Trees dating from biblical times still grow in the Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem.
Although European settlers planted specimen olive trees in New Zealand in the 1830s, commercial olive growing didn’t begin until the 1980s, when cuttings were imported into Blenheim. The first official pressing in 1991 in Marlborough yielded a single supreme litre of extra virgin olive oil, spurring a modern-day gold rush.