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"Again he sent forth the dove out of the ark; and the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf pluckt off."..
GENESIS viii. 10, 11. That the olive was anciently very much esteemed by the Hebrews, is evident from the parable of Jotham,—“The trees went forth on a time to appoint a king,” &c.; and David, also, seems to have considered this tree as a blessing, when he says, “ Thy children, like the olive branches round about thy table; Lo! thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the Lord."
The ancient Greeks appear to have thought no less of the olive and of its fruit, than the Israelites; and the great duration of the tree is apparent from the history of one in the Acropolis at Athens. Dr. Clarke, in his “ Travels,” in speaking of the temple of Pandrosus says, “Within this building, so late as the second century, was preserved the olive-tree mentioned by Apollodorus, which was said to be as old as the foundation of the citadel.” A contribution of olives was given by all the Greeks who attended the Panathenea, a festival held at Athens in honour of Minerva, Those who excelled in any of the games during this festival, were crowned with a wreath of olives, which grew in the grove of Academus, a place near the city, with spacious and shady walks, belonging to a man of that name.
The olive, it is said, was first planted in Italy, in the thirteenth year of the reign of Servius Tullius, the VIth king of Rome; and during the reign of Tarquinius Priscus, which was about the one hundred and eighty-third year from the foundation of that city, there were no olive-trees, either in Italy, Spain, or Africa, a strong presumption that they grew originally only in Syria. Theophrastus states that, in the four hundred and fortieth year of the city, there were no olive-trees in Italy, except on the coast, and within forty miles of the sea; but Pliny says, in his time, they were to be found in the very heart of France and Spain, and that the olives of Syria, although smaller, produced the best oil. He also informs us, that in the five hundredth year of the city, when Appius Claudius and L. Junius were consuls together, a pound of oil was sold for twelve asses; that in the year 680, ten pounds sold for one ass; and that in twenty-two years after that time, Italy was able to furnish the provinces with oil; and that it was much used by the Romans at their baths, possessing, as they supposed, the property of warming the body, and defending it against the cold." Virgil speaks of but three kinds of olives. Columella mentions ten varieties, and
says he believes they were much more numerous.
As the wood of the olive-tree is very compact and durable, it is not surprising that it should furnish instances of extraordinary longevity. “In comparative youth,” says a writer in the “North American Review, " "the stem increases in diameter only at the rate of an eighth of an inch in a year. Therefore, the olive at Pescio, mentioned by De Candolle, having a trunk of twenty-four feet in girth, should be seven hundred years old; even supposing it to have grown, throughont, at the ordinary rate for young trees; while the still larger tree at Beaulieu, near Nice, described by Risso, and recently measured by Berthelot, doubtless the oldest of the race in Europe, should be more than a thousand years old. Although now in a state of decrepitude, it still bears an abundant crop of fruit, or at least did so, as late as the year 1828. It is not improbable, therefore, that those eight venerable trees, which yet survive upon the Mount of Olives, may have been in existence, as tradition asserts, at the time of our Saviour's passion. Mr. Loudon mentions some plantations of olive-trees, in Italy, at Terni, which he passed through, in 1819, on his way to the Falls of Marmora, that were supposed to have existed from the time of Pliny.
Mythological and Legendary Allusions. The olive has been the emblem of peace among all nations; perhaps, because the olive-leaf, brought by the dove to Noah in the ark, was the first sign which he received of peace restored between
heaven and earth, after the bursting forth of God's awful wrath in the waters of the flood. It was also the symbol of wisdom, abundance, and of prosperity of every kind. The oil likewise became the emblem of joy and gladness. It appears to have been of great utility to the ancients, since Aristaus, son of Apollo, was regarded as a rural deity, from having taught mankind to extract it, as well as to make honey, butter and cheese. It was also employed by the ancient Greeks in pouring out libations to the gods, while the branches formed the wreaths of the victors of the Olympic games. They have a very instructive fable in their mythology, on the origin of the olive." The gods having been called on to settle a dispute between Neptune and Minerva, arising from the desire of each to give a name to the new city of Cecrops, determined to give the preference to the one who should produce the most beneficial gift to mankind. Neptune, with his trident, struck the shore, out of which sprang a horse; but Minerva, by causing an olive-tree to spring from the earth, gained her point, and from her was the city called Athenæ, now Athens; since, the olive, the emblem of peace or agriculture, was much preferred to a horse, the symbol of war and bloodshed. Minerva and the graces are also represented as crowned with olive branches.
Three statues of Minerva were preserved in the citadel of Athens, which admirably exemplified the progress of the art of sculpture. The first, made of olivewood, and of rude workmanship, was said to have fallen from heaven; the second, of bronze, was consecrated after the victory of Marathon; and the third was made of gold and ivory, which was one of the miracles of the age of Pericles.
Soil and Situation. The olive flourishes with the most advantage on land that is rather barren, sandy, and dry; and delights in schistous calcareous steeps, not very elevated, nor at a great distance from the sea; yet it is found in the centre of Spain, and in Mesopotamia, at the distance of a hundred leagues from the shore. The best oil is produced from fruit grown in calcareous soils.
Propagation and Culture. The olive may be multiplied by all the modes that are in use for the propagation of trees, and requires but little care in cultivation. In some parts of Italy it is multiplied by cuttings, and by what are called uovoli, (little eggs,) and in other parts by seeds. The uovoli are knots, swellings, or tumours in the wood, caused by the sap not returning freely to the roots, but swelling through the bark of the trunk, and thus forming wens or excrescences containing embryo buds. They are separated from the tree by introducing a sharp knife between them and the trunk; but the parent plant suffers no injury from the operation. Sometimes, however, an old tree is cut down, and the ceppo, or stock, is divided into pieces of nearly the size and shape of a mushroom, and which, from that circumstance, are also called uovoli. Care is observed that each uovolo shall contain a small portion of bark. After being dipped in manure, the uovoli are thickly planted in a bed, and covered with earth to the depth of three inches; they soon throw up shoots, and are transplanted at the end of one year, and in three years more are fit to be finally removed to the plantation. When raised from the seed, the fruit should be treated like that of the hawthorn or the holly; and, though some will come up in October, if sown in spring, yet a greater number will not make their appearance till the May of the second year. Seedling plants have the advantage of never throwing up suckers; and in Tuscany, where this mode of propagation is generally practised, it is said to produce invariably the largest and strongest trees.
Properties and Uses. The wood of the olive is heavy, compact, fine-grained, and brilliant. The sap-wood is white and soft, and the heart-wood hard, brittle, and of a reddish or yellowish tint, with the pith nearly effaced, as in the box. I is employed by cabinet-makers to inlay the finer species of wood, which are contrasted with it in colour, and to form light articles of ornament, such as dressing.
cases, snuff-boxes, &c. The wood of the roots, which is agreeably marbled, is preferred to that of the trunk. On account of its hardness and durability, the wood of this tree was anciently used for the hinges of doors; and, before metal became common, it was selected by the Greeks for the images of their gods. From its resinous and oleaginous nature, the wood of this tree is exceedingly combustible, and burns as well before, as after it is dried. There exudes from its wood a gum, which is sometimes sold for gum-elemi. There is also extracted from this tree a substance called olivine. The bark contains a bitter principle, and is regarded as tonic and febrifugal. The leaves are astringent.
But the chief value of this tree is the oil produced from its fruit, which is used as a substitute for butter, in all the countries where it grows. It is contained in the pulp only, as before observed, whereas, most other fruits have it in the nut or kernel. The proper time for gathering olives for the press is the eve of their maturity. If delayed too long, the next crop is prevented, and the tree is productive only in alternate years. At Aix, where the olive harvest takes place early in November, it is annual; but in Languedoc, Spain, and Italy, where it is delayed till December or January, it produces fruit but once in two years. The quality of the oil, also, depends upon the gathering of the fruit in the first stage of its maturity. It should be carefully plucked by the hand; and the whole harvest completed if possible in a day. To concoct the mucilage, and allow the water to evaporate, it is spread out, during two or three days, in beds three inches deep. The oil is obtained by simple pressure, in the following manner : The olives are first bruised by a mill-stone, sufficiently hard as not to break the kernels, and are then put into sacks of coarse linen, feather-grass, or of wool, and subjected to heavy pressure, by which means the most fluid and the best liquor is forced out, and is called' virgin-oil
. It is received into vessels half filled with water, from which it is skimmed, and put up into tubs, barrels, and bottles, for use. Several coarser kinds of oil are afterwards obtained, by adding hot water to the bruised fruit. The best olive oil is of a bright pale-amber colour, without smell, and bland to the taste. Kept warm, it becomes rancid, and at 38° F. it congeals. It is of the same nature as all mild expressed vegetable oils; of these, the most fluid are preferred, and hence the oils of olives and almonds are those chiefly used in medicine. One of the most esteemed kinds of oil is that produced at Aix (Huile d'Aix en Provence.) Florence Oil is also a fine kind, imported from Leghorn in flasks surrounded by a kind of network, formed of the leaves of a monocotyledonous plant. These are the kinds of olive oil in most frequent use at the tables for salads (hence they are called Salad Oils.) Lucca Oil is imported in jars holding about nineteen gallons each. Genoa Oil is a fine kind. Gallipoli Oil is imported in casks; and constitutes the largest portion of the olive oil imported into England. Sicily Oil is of an inferior quality. Spanish Oil is the worst. The foot deposited by olive oil is used for oiling machinery, under the name of Droppings of Sweet Oil. Olive oil consists of
In cold weather, the latter constituent congeals in the form of white or yellowish globules.* Oily substances do not unite with the contents of acid stomachs; but to healthy persons they afford much nourishment, and medicinally are supposed to correct acrimony, to lubricate, and relax. Olive oil is applied externally to bites and stings of poisonous animals, and to burns alone, with chalk, or in liniments and poultices. The ancients rubbed their bodies with it in dropsies, and for various purposes; but it is now little used as a medicine, excepting for coughs, burns, and a few other cases.
* See Pereira's Treatise on Food and Diet, p. 86.
Another important advantage afforded by this tree, is its fruit in a pickled state. It is gathered unripe, and suffered to steep in water for some days, and is afterwards put into a lye of water and barilla, or kali, with the ashes of olivestones, or with lime. It is then put up in earthen bottles, or in barrels, with salt and water, and in this state, is ready for use. Olives are eaten before, as well as after meals, and are believed to excite appetite and promote digestion. The finest kind of prepared fruit is known in commerce by the name of Picholines, after one Picholini, an Italian, who first discovered the art of pickling olives.
The fruit of the olive is of a pleasant taste, and is eaten by the modern Greeks, during Lent, in its ripe state, without any preparation, except with the addition of a little pepper, salt, and oil.
From the value of its products, in a commercial point of view, aside from other considerations, the culture of the olive strongly claims the attention of the American agriculturist, and the trial should be made in every place where its failure is not certain, and for this purpose, young grafted trees of hardy and choice varieties should be obtained from Europe, and the formation of nurseries immediately begun. A portion of Texas, Louisiana, the islands of Georgia, and chosen exposures of the interior of the last-named state, as well as of some of the western states, California, or of Oregon, will be the scene of this species of culture, if ever attended with success in North America.
THE AMERICAN OLIVE-TREE.
Engravings. Michaux, North American Sylva, pl. 86; Loudon, Arboretum Britannicum, ii., fig. 1034; and the figures below. Specific Characters. Leaves elliptic-lanceolate. Bractes all persistent, connate, ovate. Racemes sub
compound, narrow.–Loudon, Enc. of Plants.
HE Olea americana is a
ing to a height of thirty or thirty-five feet, with a trunk ten or twelve inches in diameter; but usually it does not attain one half of these dimensions. The bark which covers the trunk is smooth, and of a grayish colour. The leaves are four or five inches long, opposite, entire, smooth, and brilliant on the upper surfaces, and of an agreeable light-green. The fertile and barren flowers grow on separate trees. They are very small, strongly scented, of a pale-yellow colour, and axillary. They put forth at St. Mary's, in Georgia, by the last of March, and a month later in Virginia. The fruit, which is round, is about the size of a small grape, of a purple colour, approaching to blue, and contains a hard stone, thinly coated with pulp. It ripens in October, and remains attached to the branches during a part of the winter, forming an agreeable contrast with the light-green leaves.
Geography, fc. The Olea americana, which belongs exclusively to the southern states of the American union, is not often found north of Norfolk, in Virginia; and, like the live oak and cabbage-tree, is confined almost exclusively to the sea-shore. It grows in soils and exposures extremely variable. In the maritime parts of Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, it springs up with the live oak in the most barren spots; and in other places it is associated with the Magnolia grandiflora, umbrella-tree, &c., in cool, fertile, and shady situations. This tree was introduced into Britain in 1758, and is considerably more hardy than the European olive. It is said there is a very handsome flourishing plant against the wall of the arboretum of Messrs. Loddiges, at Hackney, which receives no protection whatever. It may be propagated by layers, by seeds, or by cuttings.