Hardly anything can be compared to this opaque, darkish fluid; it is absolutely unique. A hall-mark of the Mediterranean, associated with the notion of healthiness, gastronomic delight and with a serene, untroubled old age in particular. It has been outpouring murky and imperious ever since, uncommonly bitter in taste, yet of an exceptional aroma, making it an admirable companion of many superb dishes. The most valued vegetable fat in a human diet. A body care product, a cure for diverse ailments, regarded by many as panacea, the elixir of life.
A divine fruit. A flowing gold. What is concealed beneath these supernatural praises? Olive-tree! The edible oil! The oil of gods and mankind alike. Olive-oil. The oil of charitable deeds and anointment. The queen of all trees. A mythological and biblical plant. The olive-branch, an emblem of peace. A Christian rite and feast: olive-branches before the forthcoming Easter Sunday. An all-cure, a touch and a hallmark of Istria.
As stated by the Greek mythology tales, the olive-tree has been created in the following way: in her contest with Poseidon, god of the sea, Athena cast a drop of water on the cliff and immediately an olive-tree grew therein. Throughout the past centuries Istria has been determined by the olive-tree. We owe the first historic manuscripts related to our peninsula and dating back to ancient Greeks and Romans to this very olive-tree and to olive-oil, respectively. Believe it or not, olive-oil produced in Istria was considered then as the most exquisite oil of the Empire which all other existing sorts had been compared to. Marcus Valerius Marcial (40 - 103 A.D.), the most renowned epigrammatist of ancient Rome, a Spaniard by birth, left a pleiad of scripts exalting Istrian olive-oil. Chanting praises to his native Cordoba, he exclaimed: Uncto Corduba laetior Venafro, Histria nec minus absoluta testa. Cordoba, thou art more fertile than the oil-rich Venafro, absolute like the olive-oil from Istria.
Apart from many written testimonies, there is also plenty of material evidence: remnants of diverse ancient oil manufactories along the entire western coast of Istria, particularly on the Brijuni archipelago, in the towns of Barbariga, Poreč and Červar Porat. Close to these, real industrial areas intended for the amphora manufacture had been set up. It is only natural that large olive-groves were planted aside, namely the indigenous local sorts (bjelica, karbonera, buža, etc.). Nowadays, it seems like we have to start all over again. We dispose of unrivalled legacy, apparently excellent climate conditions and soil structure, favorable geographic position, skills handed down from our ancestors, knowledge and properly qualified personnel; nevertheless, we seem to lag behind the latest worldwide trends and attainments in the field. We need to take a step forward and face the challenge of planting olive-groves consisting of selected, autochthonous sorts, producing top-quality olive-oil, accepting new growing technologies, as well as of constructing up-to-date oil plants.