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Fabianus maintains that the olive will grow1 neither in very cold climates, nor yet in very hot ones. Virgil2 has mentioned three varieties of the olive, the orchites,3 the radius,4 and the posia;5 and says that they require no raking or pruning, nor, in fact, any attention whatever. There is no doubt that in the case of these plants, soil and climate are the things of primary importance; but still, it is usual to prune them at the same time as the vine, and they are improved by lopping between them every here and there. The gathering of the olive follows that of the grape, and there is even a greater degree of skill required in preparing6 oil than in making wine; for the very same olives will frequently give quite different results. The first oil of all, produced from the raw7 olive before it has begun to ripen, is considered preferable to all the others in flavour; in this kind, too, the first8 droppings of the press are the most esteemed, diminishing gradually in goodness and value; and this, whether the wicker-work9 basket is used in making it, or whether, following the more recent plan, the pulp is put in a stick strainer, with narrow spikes and interstices.10 The riper the berry, the more unctuous the juice, and the less agreeable the taste.11 To obtain a result both abundant and of excellent flavour, the best time to gather it is when the berry is just on the point of turning black. In this state it is called "druppa" by us, by the Greeks, "drypetis."

In addition to these distinctions, it is of importance to observe whether the berry ripens in the press or while on the branch; whether the tree has been watered, or whether the fruit has been nurtured solely by its own juices, and has imbibed nothing else but the dews of heaven.

1 This is the case. We may remark that the tree will grow in this country, but the fruit never comes to maturity.

2 Georg. ii. 85, also ii. 420.

3 Probably the Olea maximo fructu of Tournefort. It has its name from the Greek ὄρχις,, the "testis," a name by which it is still known in some parts of Provence.

4 Or "shuttle" olive. Probably the modern pickoline, or long olive.

5 Probably the Olea media rotunda præcox of Tournefort. It is slightly bitter.

6 This is so much the case, that though the olives of Spain and Portugal are among the finest, their oils are of the very worst quality.

7 It does not appear that the method of preparing oil by the use of boiling water was known to the ancients. Unripe olives produce an excellent oil, but in very small quantities. Hence they are rarely used for the purpose.

8 Called "virgin," or "native" oil in France, and very highly esteemed.

9 Sporta.

10 "Exilibus regulis." A kind of wooden strainer, apparently invented to supersede the wicker, or basket strainer.

11 It is more insipid the riper the fruit, and the less odorous.

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  • Cross-references to this page (3):
    • Harper's, Vindemia
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), I´STRIA
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), VENAFRUM
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