In kitchen cabinets around the world, a humble fruit juice sits, tangy and smooth, in its bottle. Its been added to dishes for thousands of years, delighting taste buds and helping people not only survive but thrive! But little is typically known of its history and how its made. So, that’s why we’re heading to the olive groves of Spain to discover this often overlooked ingredient of humanity!

Shaken from trees and pressed for their juice, olives have been fueling societies and gracing tables for more than 6000 years. (At one point olive oil was five times more expensive than wine!) 1 And now, with over 700 different varieties, you probably have some sitting in your cupboard right now! But how much do you actually know about this kitchen staple?!

How olive oil makes it from tree to table is a process and history so unique and beautiful it’s hard for me to understand how long I’ve gone without knowing about it! So that’s why, on this edition of Saturday’s Around the World, I want to share this knowledge with you. Because no matter where you are, there’s so much wonder to be found when we look a little closer at the objects we see every day.

Image: Olives next to a small bowl of olive oil

Source: Pixabay

Wait… so exactly how is olive oil made?

Maybe this question hasn’t crossed your mind before—sometimes things are such a staple in our lives that we don’t think twice about them! (Lookin’ at you, buttons.) But never again will you be able to bring your olive oil out of the cupboard  (yes out of the cupboard, not out in the open, you’ll find out more about that later) without thinking of the beautiful place it comes from and the generational traditions that have made it possible.

First off, did you know that it’s juice?

Seriously… that’s it. “Virgin” or “Extra-virgin” olive oil is essentially raw, fresh fruit juice! Nothing has been done to the olives beforehand or during the process, other than pressing.

I’ll let one of my all-time favorite creators, Nicole Jolly from True Food TV, fill you in on all of the amazing parts of this oil’s journey. With trees that are over 800 years old and still producing fruit, they’ve seen a ginormous chunk of our history; helping societies thrive and conquer, and adding important nutrients to our diets.

Nicole brings us to Spain, and into two of the biggest olive oil producers’ groves to discover how the magic happens in this absolutely beautiful video.

(If you’ve ever wanted to know what it’s like to whack a tree really hard with a stick, maybe olive harvesting is for you! I know I definitely want to give it a go.)

Seriously, how amazing is that?!

The farms, the family traditions that have lasted hundreds of years, the Romans, the quality, the variety—the whole process of olive oil, from the tree to the bottling, is absolutely phenomenal. Who knew all that was behind the staple we pick up at the grocery store every few months?

Joy and awe have been noted as being the two emotions that stand out when considering what makes us feel most alive, and to have the best human experience. 3 And looking just a little closer at some of the most common items in our lives—like olive oil or buttons—gives us the opportunity to access the emotions that help us live our best lives, on any given day.

So, the next time you’re preparing dinner, tap into these stories with every drizzle of oil that hits the pan. Who shook these olives out of a tree? How long has their family been perfecting this process? What sort of olives made this? A mixture? A single varietal? There are joy and awe all around us, all the time. And now that you know about this, you’ll never be able to roast your veggies the same again!

Speaking of enjoying olive oil in your kitchen, here’s part two of Nicole’s series on the subject: everything you need to know about keeping your olive oil tasting its best in your home! As well as some recipes and tips on how to use it.

Who knew that there was a whole world to explore, right in our kitchens!

It always surprises me how much there is to discover about common objects when we look just a little deeper. I mean, seriously, with over 700 different varieties of olives, we’ll surely never be bored again!

Where else can you find joy and awe already hiding in your life?

Whether it’s the dust under your bed or the bones inside your body, the world becomes so much more fun to be in when we actually realize what it is we’re around. Every day we see trees and bugs and street signs without so much of a second thought of what’s really happening there. To discover the wonder in a few objects you may have encountered this week, check these stories out:

11 minutes

The Magic of the Washing Machine

After seeing this TED Talk you will never look at your washing machine in the same way again! It's time we celebrated this amazing technology!

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6 minutes

The Surprising Genius Behind Your To-Go Cup! 

There's a little piece of history sitting right on top of the to-go cup of coffee you grabbed today. The coffee cup lid may seem like a humble piece of human innovation, but it's got a secret history!

Read More

One of my favorite examples of this was learning about what real wasabi is! And no: it definitely didn’t come with your take out. Check out this amazing story:

18 minutes

Travel to the Land Where Real Wasabi Grows!

Yes, it's true, the "wasabi" you know is most likely not actually wasabi! We're traveling into Japan to meet one of the people growing the real deal to learn more about the cultural impact of this product and why it's so precious and pricey. It may remind us of a few of our own treasured treats!

Read More

What’s the best olive oil you’ve ever tasted? Any fond memories? Share them with us on Instagram and Facebook!

And don’t put off dipping into your new olive oil. The sooner you use it after buying it, the better the flavor. The olive oil itself is a special occasion!

Stay open to new possibilities!

  • Sam

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” —Albert Einstein

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Notes:

  1. Vossen, Paul. “Olive Oil: History, Production, and Characteristics of the World’s Classic Oils.” HortScience, vol. 42, no. 5, Aug. 2007, pp. 1093–1100, journals.ashs.org/hortsci/view/journals/hortsci/42/5/article-p1093.xml, 10.21273/hortsci.42.5.1093. Accessed 28 May 2020.
  2. TRUE FOOD TV. “OLIVE OIL | How Is It Made? (OLIVE: How Does It Grow?).” YouTube, 2020, www.youtube.com/watch?v=dnzSoMqOWDY. Accessed 28 May 2020.
  3. White, Daria B., “Being and beholding: Comparative analysis of joy and awe in four cultures” (2017). Dissertations. 150. https://commons.lib.jmu.edu/diss201019/150
  4. TRUE FOOD TV. “The TRUTH about Olive Oil: Top 5 TIPS + MYTHS.” YouTube, 2020, www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZYL730gHAo. Accessed 29 May 2020.

Sam Burns

Editor in Chief

Sam has written and edited hundreds of articles since joining the EWC team in 2016. She writes about topics from the wonders of nature to the organizations changing the world and the simple joys in life! Outside of the EWC office, she’s a part-time printmaker, collector of knick-knacks, and procurer of cheeses.