Saturday, February 12, 2011
Olive Trees in Tunisia, Africa
The Earth From the Air
New olive plantings, Zaghouan, Tunisia
These olive groves at the base of the 4,250-foot-high (1,295m) Jebel Zaghouan in northeastern Tunisia are planted in curved embankments to retain water and limit erosion, which viewed from above look like the lines on a relief map. A symbol of peace, the tree is native to the Mediterranean basin, where 90 percent of the planet's olive trees grow. An olive tree can live as long as 1,000 years, producing 11 to 65 pounds (5 to 30kg) of olives yearly. In the past its oil was used in small clay lamps, but it has been replaced by petroleum. Today we consume both table olives and olive oil, which are renowned for their dietetic and medicinal properties and are also used in cosmetics. It take 11 to 13 pounds (5 to 6 kilograms) of olives to produce a liter (a bit more than a quart) of olive oil. Tunisia produced 1 million tons of olives in 2000, doubling its 1997 production and becoming the fourth greatest producer, after Spain (4.2 million tons) Italy (2.8 million) and Greece (2 million). These countries are also the principal consumers of olive oil: 20 liters per capita each year in Greece, 15 liters in Spain and Italy, and just one-half liter in France.