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Olives: The Life and Lore of a Noble Fruit Paperback – Deckle Edge, October 12, 1998

29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

After rice, corn, and wheat--the three staples of, respectively, East Asia, the Americas, and Eurasia--the olive is the foodstuff most closely bound to history, shaping the course of nations and empires. Mort Rosenblum, the author of the lively Secret Life of the Seine and many other books, gives us a wide-angle, altogether engrossing account of the olive's life and natural history, studding his narrative with conversations with farmers all around the Mediterranean. Rosenblum predicts an upsurge in olive cultivation in the United States as more and more people become aware of the fruit's many healthful qualities. If you have the urge to take up farming, read this fine book--you may be moved to put in some olive trees and try your luck. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

"Olives," writes Rosenblum (The Secret Life of the Seine), "have oiled the wheels of civilization since Jericho built walls and ancient Greece was morning news." In this delightful and comprehensive account, he tells us about his travels throughout the Mediterranean countries, where the fruit is grown, in search of the olive's history and horticulture. What sparked his interest were some ancient half-dead olive trees on his property in Provence that he wanted to restore to health. The more he learned, the more fascinated he became and now, a connoisseur, he can discriminate between the nuances of different fruits and their oils, some of which are so delicious that they are drunk like liqueurs. Rosenblum's account is rich in details of the characters of growers he met in communities throughout the Mediterranean, where much of their joys and sorrows center around the crops. He learned about the care and nurture of the trees, discovered that the most desirable oils of Crete are now purchased in bulk by foreign companies who mix it with others, making the pure product difficult to find anywhere but in the communities where the trees are cultivated; and he explores the national and international politics that affect the trade. A paean to the olive tree, this is an enchanting excursion.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: North Point Press; 1 edition (October 12, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865475261
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865475267
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 0.9 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,424,786 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Mort Rosenblum is a Paris-based reporter, author, and journalism professor at the University of Arizona in Tucson. Since 1965, he has covered stories on seven continents, from the Vietnam War to tango dancing by the Seine. He was editor of the International Herald Tribune, special correspondent for The Associated Press, and founding editor of Dispatches quarterly. His 13 books include Coups and Earthquakes and Who Stole the News? He also grows olives in Provence.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Tim F. Martin on July 3, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
_Olives_ by Mort Rosenblum is a well-written, witty, and engaging book on all things olive, thorough in its coverage. Rosenblum became an olive aficionado after acquiring five acres of land in the Provence region of France, site of an abandoned farmhouse and two hundred half-dead and heavily overgrown century-plus olive trees, long neglected. From that point on he became not only committed to bringing his trees back to life but on becoming an expert on olives in general, traveling throughout France, Israel, Palestine, Spain, Italy, Tunisia, Morocco, Greece, the former Yugoslavia, California, and Mexico to speak to olive growers, those who press olives for their oil, government regulators, those involved in marketing table olives and olive oil, chefs, and nutritional experts. Though not a cookbook, _Olives_ even includes cooking, buying, and storage tips as well as recipes for such fare as eliopitta (a Cypriot olive bread) and imam bayaldi (the name meaning "the imam fainted," supposedly reference to a long-ago reaction to this eggplant and olive oil dish).

The origins of the domestication of _Olea europaea_ are lost in the mists of prehistory. The olive, a close relation to the lilac and jasmine, was maintained in groves in Asia Minor as early as 6000 B.C. Greeks, Phoenicians, and Romans spread olives to Sicily, the Italian mainland, France, Spain, and North Africa. Spanish missionaries in the 1500s brought the olive to California and Mexico. Today there are 800 million olive trees in the world. Though found on six continents, 90% of them are found in the Mediterranean (Spain has the most).

Olives have long been an important fixture in Mediterranean history and religion. Golden carvings of olives decorated ancient Egyptian tombs.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 25, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book will provide a good read for anyone even vaguely interested in olives, olive growing or Mediterranean cuisine. As an olive grower, I also found that it provided very valuable information on growing, pruning and processing methods - including the fact that there is no "right" way to do things.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Elliot Essman on July 7, 2004
Format: Paperback
I'm gorging myself with olives: the fruit, the oil, this book. There are books you re-read years gone, but I found myself devouring clumps of this book just days after reading it in the conventional way. Mort Rosenblum could have given us an encyclopedic guide to the "noble fruit," but instead he follows his passions--and does first class journalistic digging--to press out the finest extra virgin essence of his subject. I also like the way Rosenblum writes, as much a friend as an authority. France, and its olive oils, comes first on the author's list, but he also does justice to subjects as disparate as the place of olives in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the promising growth of the high-end California olive oil industry, and even the seemingly bottomless corruption on the olive oil front in the European Community. Few effective journalists write with such literary flair, without seeming to try too hard. A winner.
Food writer Elliot Essman's other reviews and food articles are available at [...]
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By B. Marold HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on November 7, 2003
Format: Paperback
This delightful book by an American journalist based in France is much more about the geopolitics, history, and economics of olive growing than about the culinary role of olives and it's oil. It is also much more about olive oil than it is about the fruit, especially since commerce in the oil dwarfs trade in the fruit. Aside from it's being especially well written, it benefits most from it's being written entirely from a first person point of view. Aside from references to selected European Union regulations and documents, all of the text relates conversations between the author and his subjects, the olive growing farmers of the Mediterranian and California. The story starts in the author's own home where he himself raises olives in a small farm in Provence, France. From there, the story travels to other Provencal olive groves, Italy, Spain, Morroco, Greece, and Israel / Palestine.
The book provides a wealth of information for your understanding of olives, olive growing, and the production of olive oil. The most interesting aspects of this story were the domination of olive oil commerce by Italian firms, in spite of the fact that Spain is the world's largest producer of olives and the differences between various methods of extracting oil and how these different processes may affect the quality of the oil.
This book is a very good read, especially for foodies. Just don't expect much information about the culinary and nutritional values of olive oil. There are other books dedicated to olive oil which cover this very well.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By on May 6, 1998
Format: Hardcover
I expected an amazingly well-written book when it was recommended to me. How else could a book about olives make it into print? In fact, the first chapter was near-classic, beginning with the olive you take for granted at the bottom of your martini glass and whisking you through the meaning and world history of this fruit and back to your martini. Unfortunately, the remainder of the book trailed off into a journalistic study of the olive's modern condition in the Mediterranean world with a few too many descriptions of oil presses and related olive-industry machinery. While the remainder of the book lacked the polished cohesiveness of the introductory chapter, the book is still an excellent and well-written account of an oft-overlooked fruit. After all, the author did make the "little green lump" at the bottom of my martini enticing enough for me to experiment with a few gourmet oils and plant an olive tree in my backyard.
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