The eternal olive trees of Bchaaleh. Photo credit: François el Bacha, all rights reserved. Visit my blog

Bchaleeh, municipality of the caza of Batroun in North Lebanon, houses a small treasure visible on the very edge of the road. These are among the oldest olive trees in the world, over 6000 years old.

Today belonging to the local Waqf, these olive trees also belonged to a Roman sanctuary which has now disappeared. This is the opportunity to pay homage to this Hérault tree from a Mediterranean culture that has been domesticated for several millennia. Perhaps these Bchaaleh olive trees are even among the first domesticated olive trees.

Very branchy, with a gnarled trunk, hard and dense wood, cracked brown bark, the cultivation of these trees was extended to the Mediterranean basin by the Phoenicians following the extension of their colonies. This is therefore an essential and little-known element of Lebanese culture. This is how the olive tree was imported to North Africa, Spain, Italy, etc … It has beneficial properties for health, especially on the cardiovascular level, thanks to its vitamin A content. (3 to 30 mg / kg of provitamin A Carotene), vitamin E (150 mg / kg) and monounsaturated fatty acids.

Apart from the food use that we still know today, the oil was also used as a means of lighting or for the manufacture of soap, such as Aleppo soap in Syria.

Lebanon produces 6,000 tonnes of olives annually over an area of 58,000 hectares, a long way from the world’s leading producers which, according to statistics published in 2005, are Spain, Italy, Greece and Turkey, which provide 80% of world olive production. We would consume 5800 tonnes annually.

The olive harvest is carried out during the autumn for table olives or between November and February for olives intended for the production of oil. Generally the 2 types of olives are harvested at the same time during the autumn therefore. The pressing and the extraction take place preferably on the day of picking, in order to preserve the fruits from any chemical transformation.

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