The European Union has teamed up with Spanish Inter-Professional Table Olive Organization, INTERACEITUNA, and Michelin-starred chef José Andrés to launch an olives campaign directed at U.S. consumers. The goal of the campaign—“A tasty message from Europe. Have an Olive Day”—is to raise awareness of the versatility, flavor, nutrition, and rich history of olive production in Europe, especially in Spain, the world leader in production and exports of table olives.
The campaign will run through 2019 and will seek to educate U.S. consumers on the different variations of European olives and their culinary uses. It will focus on U.S. regions with high olive consumption, including New York City, Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Philadelphia.
Cooking with this adored Mediterranean fruit
It’s difficult to describe the tastes and flavors of foods. Olives are an especially hard case. Nothing tastes remotely like them, so it’s impossible to compare them to any other food.
Novelist Lawrence Durrell did the best job of evoking them when he wrote, “The whole Mediterranean, the sculpture, the palms, the gold beads, the bearded heroes . . . all of it seems to rise in the sour, pungent smell of these black olives between the teeth. A taste older than meat, older than wine. A taste as old as cold water.”
Cultivation of the olive is certainly ancient. The gnarly trees, their green-and-silver leaves trembling in any breeze, are native to the Mediterranean. In Israel, there’s evidence of olive oil production in 6000 BC, and on the Greek island of Naxos, archeologists have discovered remains of olive oil in a jug dating to 4,000 BC.
Indeed, the olive tree was so vital to the Greeks that they embedded it in their myth of Athena. When she struck the Acropolis with her spear, the first olive tree sprang forth. This magic underwhelmed the witnesses, who grumbled that the sea-god Poseidon would have given them a better gift. But after Athena taught them how to cultivate the tree and process its products for food, light and timber, they realized its many virtues and named their city Athens in her honor.
Greece remains a major grower, producing 11 percent of the world’s olives and consuming 23 liters of olive oil per person per year. (Americans consume about one liter.)
• A team of scientists from three Spanish centers has sequenced, for the first time ever, the complete genome of the olive tree.
• The results have been just published this week in the Open Access journal GigaScience. This work will facilitate genetic improvement for production of olives and olive oil, two key products in the Spanish economy and diet.
• The specimen sequenced is an olive tree of the Farga variety, one of the most widespread in eastern Spain, and over 1,300 years old.
The olive was one of the first trees to be domesticated in the history of mankind, probably some 6,000 years ago. A Mediterranean emblem par excellence, it is of vital importance to the Spanish and other regional economies (Italy, Greece and Portugal). In fact, Spain is the leading producer of olive oil in the world. Every year, nearly three million tons of oil are produced, for local consumption and export. Spain produces one third of this total.
Nonetheless, up to now, the genome of the olive tree were unknown. The genome regulate such factors as the differences among varieties, sizes and flavor of the olives, why the trees live so long or the reasons for their adaptation to dryland farming.
Now a team of researchers from the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) of Barcelona, the Real Jardin Botánico (CSIC-RJB) and the Centro Nacional de Análisis Genómico (CNAG-CRG), has brought new insight to the genetic puzzle of the olive tree, by sequencing the complete genome of this species for the first time ever. The results of this work, fully funded by Banco Santander, have been published this week in the groundbreaking Open Access and Open Data journal GigaScience. The article will pave the way to new research work that will help olive trees in their development and protecting them from infections now causing major damage, such as the attacks of bacteria (Xilella fastidiosa) and fungi (Verticillium dhailae).
“Without a doubt, it is an emblematic tree, and it is very difficult to improve plant breeding, as you have to wait at least 12 years to see what morphological characteristics it will have, and whether it is advisable to cross-breed,” says principal author of this paper Toni Gabaldón, ICREA research professor and head of the comparative genomics laboratory at the CRG. “Knowing the genetic information of the olive tree will let us contribute to the improvement of oil and olive production, of major relevance to the Spanish economy,” he adds.
Private funding to support public science
The story of this project begins with a presentation, a coincidence and a challenge. Four years ago, Gabaldón worked with Pablo Vargas, a CSIC researcher at the Real Jardín Botánico, on the presentation of scientific results of projects focused on endangered species, such as the Iberian lynx, that had been financed by Banco Santander.
At that time, Banco Santander had expressed great interest in financing scientific projects in Spain. Over the course of the presentation, Pablo Vargas proposed to Emilio Botín the complete sequencing of the olive tree genome, using the same technology as had been used to sequence the lynx; in other words, the most state-ofthe-art technological strategy to achieve a high-quality genome.
Five months after that meeting, a contract was signed to carry out the first complete sequencing of the olive tree’s DNA, a three-year research effort coordinated by Pablo Vargas.
“There are three phases to genome sequencing: first, isolate all of the genes, which we published two years ago. Second, assemble the genome, which is a matter of ordering those genes one after the other, like linking up loose phrases in a book. Last, identify all of the genes, or binding the book. The latter two phases are what we have done and are now presenting,” says the CSIC Real Jardín Botánico researcher.
To continue with the book analogy, according to Tyler Alioto of the CNAG-CRG “this genome has generated some 1.31 billion letters, and over 1,000 GBytes of data. We are surprised because we have detected over 56,000 genes, significantly more than those detected in sequenced genomes of related plants, and twice that of the human genome.”
Decoding its evolutionary history
In addition to the complete sequencing of the olive tree genome, researchers have also compared the DNA of this thousand-year-old tree with other varieties such as the wild olive. They have also found the transcriptome, the genes expressed to determine what differences exist on the genetic expression level in leaves, roots and fruits at different stages of ripening.
The next step, researchers say, will be to decode the evolutionary history of this tree, which has formed part of old-world civilizations since the Bronze Age. At that time, in the eastern Mediterranean, the process of domesticating wild olive trees that led to today’s trees began. Later, selection processes in different Mediterranean countries gave rise to the nearly 1,000 varieties of trees we have today.
Knowing the evolution of olive trees from different countries will make it possible to know their origins and discover the keys that have allowed it to adapt to very diverse environmental conditions. It will also help discover the reasons behind its extraordinary longevity, as the trees can live for 3,000 to 4,000 years.
“That longevity makes the olive tree we have sequenced practically a living monument,” says Gabaldón. “Up to now, all of the individuals sequenced, from the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) to the first human being analyzed, have lived for a certain time, depending on their life expectancy, but then died or will die. This is the first time that the DNA of an individual over 1,000 years old, and that will probably live another 1,300 years, has been sequenced.” say Gabaldón and Vargas.
Reference: Fernando Cruz, Irene Julca, Jèssica Gómez-Garrido, Damian Loska, Marina MarcetHouben, Emilio Cano, Beatriz Galán, Leonor Frias, Paolo Ribeca, Marta Gut, Manuel Sánchez-Fernández, Jose Luis García, Ivo G. Gut, Pablo Vargas, Tyler S. Alioto, and Toni Gabaldón. “Genome sequence of the olive tree, Olea europaea” GigaScience 2016. DOI: 10.1186/s13742-016-0134-5
Image available at: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/k11ulb9k7kbb2iw/AACTz3H45t6b0PPjlrX53wQKa?dl=0
For more information and interviews:
Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) Laia Cendrós, press officer Tel. +34 93 316 0237 – Mobile +34 607 611 798 – email@example.com
Real Jardín Botánico – CSIC Jesús García, head communications officer Tel. +34 91 420 30 17 ext 188 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Centro Nacional de Análisis Genómico (CNAG-CRG) Anna Borrell, communication assistant Tel. + 34 93 402 0580 – email@example.com
Find more at http://www.xenagosthessalonikis.gr/detrop/
We, at Inolivia, are pleased to announce the participation and presentation of our products in the World Food Expo Korea 2015. Inolivia olives won positive comments and taste compliments. Korean expo visitors awarded our effort to introduce Inolivia’s pure & rich flavors in the Korean market. Thank you all!
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– The olive tree, Oleaeuropaea, is native to countries in Asia and Africa and along the Mediterranean Sea.
– Unripe olives are green in color and as they ripen they turn black or dark purple.
– Olives are a fruit, not vegetables as many people believe.
– Olive oil contains no cholesterol, salt or carbohydrate.
– Olives are rich in vitamin E and healthy fats.
– An olive tree can live up to 600 years.
– It can take up to 10 years for an olive tree to bear fruit.
– Globally, people consume approximately 2.25 million tonnes of olive oil each year.
– Spain, Italy and Greece are the top olive producing nations in the world.
– Since 1990, consumption of olive oil in the United States has increased significantly. In the last two decades, its consumption has increased from 30 million gallons to nearly 70 million gallons a year.
– 2,550 olive branches were used at the 2004 Olympics Games when the tradition of crowning Olympians with an olive wreath was reintroduced.
Hear what our expert has to say
“Olives, whether eaten whole or as olive oil, offer exceptional health properties. Olives contain an abundance of antioxidants, protective disease fighting compounds found in plants. Few other foods with high fat content offer such a wide range of antioxidant nutrients. All these elements combine to reduce excessive inflammation and keep the body healthy. They also work to neutralise the damaging effects of free radicals on the body’s cells, which can contribute to disease and ill health. Despite being high in fat, olive oil is a better choice compared to other oils for your heart. The majority of fat found in olives is monounsaturated fatty acid and oleic acid, both healthy forms of fat. These elements suppress the production of unhealthy cholesterol which has been shown to play a role in the development of cardiovascular disease. Even though monounsaturated fat is good for your heart, it is still high in calories. So it should be consumed only in moderate amounts if you are concerned about weight gain and excess calorie intake.
Care must be taken when using olive oil for frying. Shallow frying is safe; but with deep frying and intense heating the olive oil is heated beyond its smoke point and starts to break down chemically. This results in the oil losing most of its antioxidants, releasing toxic chemicals in the form of smoke and producing free radicals (atoms that damage healthy cell).”
Contributed by Aisha Pookunju, Dietitian at Hamad Medical Corporation
Since 29th June 2015, life in Greece operates under capital controls. As things stand, Greeks with debit/credit cards can withdraw €60 a day (in practice €50 as most cash machines have run out of €20s), can make online transfers within the country and can pay with their cards in shops that still accept them.
What does this all mean for businesses?
Whereas individuals may be able to survive off €60 a day, at least for a while, businesses cannot. One particular problem is that Greek businesses rely heavily on imports (especially of raw materials) which they can no longer access easily; this means that, for example, a lightbulb factory reliant on copper from Chile can only make lightbulbs as long as its existing inventory holds out. Exports also fall; Greek manufacturers have already had to cancel orders from buyers abroad and more will follow soon. Domestic suppliers have begun to insist on up-front cash payments (those that didn’t already, at least). This causes similar supply-chain problems; as drivers and petrol stations demand payment in cash, which isn’t readily available, delivery delays grow, occasionally leading fruit and vegetables to go off. Redundancies are already starting to happen as businesses slim down to counter losses.
Whereas some of the bigger businesses with bank accounts abroad or foreign income streams are able to circumvent some of these controls by using their foreign bank accounts to pay suppliers, most family-run businesses and smaller firms—the backbone of the Greek economy—are not so lucky. In theory, they can apply to a special bank committee that assesses applications; in practice this is proving wholly insufficient.
Therefore, it is more than necessary to unlock payments to foreign banks to support Greek exports with raw materials from abroad. Addionally, money transfers from international customers need to be marketed as secure to overcome a situation where foreign buyers of Greek products are receiving warnings from their banks that the money they forward to Greece for the payment of their Greek suppliers may be tied down and never reach the Greek enterprises.
Unless, urgent measures to support greek imports/exports regarding banking services are taken, greek exports will be limited to a level of no return and the respective, more than vital, money flows from abroad will drop dramatically.
There is no more time to lose. Do act!