Special Feature


Olive Oil History

Spinach Olive Dip
Turkey, Spinach & Olive Sandwich Wheels

A Tree As Old As Western Civilization

The wild olive (oleaster) grows in most countries of the Mediterranean, even in southeast Asia and other areas. It is an unimpressive straggly plant, with tiny, inedible fruit. It bears little resemblance to the olive tree, Olea europaea, which we know today. This magnificent tree may have been first cultivated five thousand years ago in Crete and Syria.

Symbol for Ancient Cultures
There are numerous Biblical references to olive harvest and cultivation. It was a symbol of peace and safety to Noah in the ark. Egyptians made pictures of olive trees, used olive oil in preserving mummies and left cured olives in the tombs of the Pharaohs. Greeks regarded the olive tree as sacred. Olive oil became one of their major exports. The Greeks and Romans adopted the olive as an important symbol. Pickled and cured olives were eaten in large quantities in Rome. Olives have been found still preserved in the ruins of Pompeii.
New World Transplant

The olive tree flourished in Spain, Tunisia, Morocco and other countries around the Mediterranean for thousands of years, but it was not until the mid 16th century that there is record of cuttings being carried to Peru by the Spaniards. In the 1700's Franciscan monks brought the olive to Mexico and then north into California by way of the missions. The first cuttings were planted in 1769 at the San Diego Mission. However, it was not until the late 1800's that commercial cultivation was developed in California.


Spinach Olive Dip

Spinach Olive Dip
  • 1-1/2 cups sour cream
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 (10 oz) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed & squeezed dry
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed chopped parsley
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme (1/4 tsp. dried)
  • 3/4 cup ripe olives, finely chopped
  • Raw vegetables such as: carrot sticks, celery sticks, cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes, bell pepper strips, broccoli florets

In a blender or food processor, whirl sour cream, mayonnaise, spinach, parsley, onion, honey, salt, pepper and thyme until smoothly puréed. Transfer to a small serving bowl and gently stir in 1/2 cup olives. To garnish, sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup olives. Serve dip with raw vegetables .

Makes about 3-1/2 cups; 12 servings
Total preparation time: 10 minutes


Turkey, Spinach & Olive Sandwich Wheels

Olive Sandwich Wheel
  • 1 package (10 oz) frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 1 large package (8 oz) neufchatel cheese or cream cheese
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice
  • 6 flour tortillas (7- or 9-inch)
  • 1 cup pitted ripe olives, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onion
  • 3/4 pound thinly sliced turkey

Press spinach firmly back of spoon to remove excess moisture. In a bowl, mix spinach, cheese, 1 tablespoon horseradish (or more to taste) and allspice. Divide spinach mixture evenly among each of 6 tortillas evenly. Sprinkle evenly with olives and onion. Divide turkey into 6 equal portions. Place 1 portion of turkey on each tortilla, covering spinach-olive mixture. Roll each tortilla tightly to encase filling. with a sharp knife, cut each tortilla diagonally into 4 equal slices.

Makes 6 servings
Total preparation time: About 15 minutes


Provided by California Olive Industry


About Olives and Olive Oils

Articles About Olives (with Recipes)

Olive Oil Recipes

This page originally published as a FoodDay article in 1997.

Copyright © 2007, Forkmedia LLC. All rights reserved.

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This page modified February 2007

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