What we grow - Biodiversity



The olive tree (Olea europaea – family of Oleaceae – genus Olea) is a fruit tree that is presumed to be native to Asia Minor and Syria, since in this region the wild olive tree has been widespread since ancient times, forming of the forests on the southern coast of Asia Minor, where the Greeks began to cultivate it, discovering its great properties. Olives, its fruits, have been used since ancient times for the extraction of olive oil and for direct use in food. The name “olive tree” comes from the Latin “olīvum”, from an ablative “olīvī”, “olīvō” of “oleum”, in turn from the archaic Greek “élaiwon” and from the classical Greek “élaion”. The “ulivo” form, as well as “olive”, is more frequent in Tuscany, but it is also widespread in other parts of Italy, the “uliva” form, completely prevalent in scientific literature, is typical of Veneto, part of the Sardinia, Emilia-Romagna and northern Lazio; in Southern Italy, “aulivo”, “alivo”, “avulivo” prevail. The olive tree is a central plant in the history of civilizations that overlook the Mediterranean basin and throughout the Occident. Numerous legends are told:

  1. One of these is of Greek origin and tells of Athena who, in order to bless men, planted her spear in the ground and grew the first olive branch;
  2. Another tells us of an olive tree harvested at the edge of the world by Hercules, in that place the sacred wood of Zeus was born, from whose branches the crowns for the winners of the Olympic games were intertwined;

However, it was found that the first wild plants existed on the island of Crete as early as 4000 B.C. and that subsequently the Cretans specialized in the cultivation of this plant which will subsequently be exported throughout the Mediterranean basin. Both the Oriental and European peoples have always considered this plant a symbol of peace. In ancient Greece the olive tree was considered sacred, to the point that anyone caught damaging it was punished with exile. At that time the plant was not yet the cultivated olive tree but its wild ancestor, the wild olive. For the Romans it was an outstanding symbol for illustrious men. According to tradition, the divine twins Romulus and Remus were born under an olive tree. For the Jews the olive tree was a symbol of justice and wisdom. In the Christian religion, the olive tree has a wide range of symbologies, in fact, in the Bible it is said that, after the Great Flood calmed-down, a dove brought an olive branch to Noah to announce that the earth and the sky had become one reconciled. From that moment, the olive tree took on a double meaning: it became the symbol of rebirth, because, after the destruction wrought by the Great Flood, the earth was once again blooming; it also became a symbol of peace because it attested to the end of the punishment and the reconciliation of God with the people. Both symbols are celebrated on the Christian feast of the Palms where the olive tree represents Christ himself (Whose name, coincidentally, means “The anointed”) who, through his sacrifice, becomes an instrument of reconciliation and peace for all humanity (Symbology which is also found in the Gospels), in fact, Jesus was warmly received by the crowd waving palm leaves and olive branches; in the Garden of Olives he spent the last hours before the Passion. The olive oil used in Christian liturgies takes the name of Chrism, used in the sacraments of baptism, extreme unction, confirmation and ordination of new priests.


The olive tree is an evergreen broad-leaved tree, whose vegetative activity is attenuated in the winter period. It has slow growth and is very long-lived: in favorable climatic conditions it can become millennial and reach heights of 15-20 meters. The plant begins to bear fruit after 3-4 years from planting, full productivity begins after 9-10 years, while production does not decrease with old trees, in fact in Southern Italy there are centuries-old olive groves. The roots, mostly of the adventitious type, are expanded and superficial (0,7-1 meter deep). The stem is cylindrical and twisted, with gray bark, with hard and heavy wood. The stump forms globose structures, from which numerous basal suckers are emitted every year. The foliage has a conical shape, with fruit-bearing and pendulous branches (Horizontally with respect to the stem) according to the variety. The leaves are opposite, leathery, simple, whole, elliptic-lanceolate, with short petiole and entire margin. The underside of the leaves is silvery-white due to the presence of scaly hairs, while the upper part is dark green. The buds are mostly of the axillary type. The hermaphrodite flower, small, with a calyx of 4 sepals and a corolla of white petals. The flowers are grouped in number of 10-15 in bunch inflorescences (Mignole), they are emitted at the axil of the leaves of the twigs of the previous year, starting around March-April. The actual flowering takes place, according to the cultivars and areas, from May to the first half of June. The fruit is a globose, ellipsoidal or ovoid drupe, sometimes asymmetrical. It consists of a “fleshy” part (Pulp) which contains oil and a woody and wrinkled seed. The weight of the fruit varies between 1-6 grams (Depending on the variety), while the harvest period is from October to December.


Olives are certainly among the symbolic foods of the Mediterranean diet, internationally recognized for its properties and a very characteristic flavor. Mainly, they are grown for the production of extra virgin olive oil, but also for table consumption, both green and black, with or without seeds, stuffed, whole, sliced and in many other forms, they are part of appetizers, salads, first dishes, pates, sauces, bread or together with other components of meat and fish fillings. They are a source of vitamins A, B, C, E, mineral salts (Iron, sodium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and iodine), as well as providing oleic acid with a high fiber content (Which helps regulate our intestinal system). In addition to their famous benefits for our cardiovascular system, they also have beneficial properties for our muscle-skeletal, respiratory, nervous, digestive system: all this thanks to their high content of phytonutrients and antioxidants.


The olive tree adapts well to any type of soil, including arid or poor. In order to obtain a good production result, the relationship between plant and soil must be taken into consideration, through the development of a harmonious root system, the establishment of adequate gas exchanges, good water retention, an allocation of organic matter, balanced microbiological activity. To guarantee all this, a loose and non-asphyxiated soil is needed, avoiding compaction and tillage when wet. In view of an agriculture practiced with the greatest respect for the environment, we must contain weeds only under the plants, through the mulching technique, particularly useful in the first years of planting, or with controlled grassing, which can improve the physical structure of the soil, bring organic matter, normalize humidity levels, favor the infiltration of rainwater and reduce soil erosion. The olive tree must be regularly fertilized, usually once a year, with compost or manure. Furthermore, to obtain satisfactory productivity it may be convenient to irrigate as needed, avoiding wetting the foliage. Pruning is another important factor to take into consideration, which aims to make the plant reach an optimal shape and maintain it over time, to balance production, allowing air circulation and access of sunlight to the foliage, avoiding stagnation of humidity.