Olives have been used by humans for food since the early Bronze Age or for at least 5000 to 6000 years.
The olive is a species of small tree in the family Oleaceae (related to lilacs) and is naturally found in much of Africa, the Mediterranean Basin and southern Asia as far east as China. The olive tree’s fruit, also called the olive, is of major agricultural importance in the Mediterranean region as the source of olive oil.
The fruit is actually a small drupe (featuring an interior stone or pit) that may be as small as a ¼ inch to an inch to as large as an inch long. Olives are harvested in the green to purple stage. There are hundreds of cultivars of the olive which determine their color, size, shape, as well as the qualities of olive oil. Olives may be used primarily for oil, eating, or both. Olives cultivated for consumption are generally referred to as table olives.