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Olive (Olea Europases)

The flowers appear on the tree around May and are a good indication of the crop size to come. The fruit forms and gradually ripens from pastel green to dark green, through to violet, and finally to black.

In smaller groves, the olives are still hand-picked into baskets, or by beating the tree canopies with poles; but larger estates use a machine with mechanical arms that comb through the branches, releasing the olives into nets. Once picked, the fruit is carefully handled to minimise damage and must be pressed almost immediately, since the fruit begins to ferment, causing acidity levels to rise. Although it is widely cultivated, 98% of the world"s olives still come from the Mediterranean. Olives have been cultivated for thousands of years, but the Romans refined the cultivation of olives to a fine art about 2,000 years ago, and their methods have survived largely intact.

Olive trees need a considerable investment, as they don"t fully mature for about 30 years, and the harvesting must be done by hand.

They are sometimes served as cocktail snacks, stoned and stuffed with a piece of pimento.

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