Like ours today, the ancient civilizations of the Mediterranean ran on oil. The Phoenicians, the Greeks, and the Romans all built their economies on its production and transportation; it provided them with everything from food and light to cosmetics. In some ways, however, our predecessors were more advanced than we are: their oil was a renewable resource, harvested from living trees.
As Julie Angus details in her fascinating but flawed new book, Olive Odyssey: Searching for the Secrets of the Fruit That Seduced the World, the olive tree is still a source of wealth and sustenance in much of the Mediterranean basin. Olea europaea provides not only olives and olive oil but fuel for cooking, timber for building, and silvery-green foliage for ritual occasions. Although its preeminence among plants has been challenged by upstarts such as wheat, soy, and corn, it’s one of the oldest cultivated crops, and remains one of the most important.Julie Angus fascinating new book "Olive Odyssey",