The Olive Tree as a Symbol of Palestine
For centuries this ubiquitous tree, with its characteristically gnarled trunk and stately branches, has given a muted color scheme and visual texture to Palestine’s terraced highlands. Today it has moved from the countryside to grace paintings, book covers, university logos and even websites.
In the face of great dispossession, Palestinians have clung more earnestly to the land about them and the olive tree is a symbol of their ties to the land. The humble olive tree also has real practical worth as the tree of wealth, protection and security, of shelter and sustenance.
Even if a rural farmer has but a small piece of land, he will plant five or ten olive trees. Much of Palestinian rural village and farming culture centers on the cyclical rhythms of planting, pruning and harvesting of olives.
Since the 19th century, olives have been a major commercial crop for Palestine; not only is the oil a major source of nutritious food, it is used for lighting and for soap manufacturing.
When West Bank land is cleared for Israeli settlement expansion, centuries old olive trees are destroyed and some are transplanted to Israeli urban median strips thus giving instant history. In the language of poetry that Palestinians use to describe their injured landscape:
“To seize an ancient olive tree is like a confiscation of memory.”
The olive tree carries the memory of Palestine and this is why Palestinians grieve so deeply when it is uprooted or cut down and for the exact same reason, Israel continues to destroy olive trees – to extinguish the memory. Olive oil is the life blood that runs through the land and its people.
The Tree of Eternity
The olive tree (olea europaea) is a tree of great beauty. It has a low gnarled trunk that is resistant to decay. It is also resistant to drought, wind and fire. It is deeply rooted into the land and must be completely upooted if it is not to regenerate itself even from severe damage or destruction.
It is called the “tree of eternity” because of its ability to regenerate. After 150 years of olive production the tree begins to yield a lower harvest, then around 200 years the cap of the tree dies leaving the roots and base of the trunk. This base is able to produce sprouts, regenerate and begin its life process again.
No other tree carries the heritage of the olive. It is at once the symbol for life, hope, peace, wisdom and victory.
They witnessed the rise and fall of civilizations, stood against plagues and epidemics, greeted the sun rising and setting down over thousands of days, yet stood defiant in glory and glamour. These are the oldest olive trees alive bearing their soulful fruits, giving their golden oil and teaching mankind a lesson in sustainability. read more
Health & Beauty
Care & FAQ
Zatoun is very easy to care for. Simply keep in a dark, cool place. Olive oil does not need to be refrigerated after opening (although it does it no harm either).
Excessive light and heat are two great threats to olive oil. Zatoun comes bottled in dark green glass which helps to protect it from light.
The freezing point of olive oil is 4° C or 39° F and it begins to congeal below 13° C or 55° F. Freezing or congealing does not harm the oil in any way. It returns to normal appearance and viscosity after after 8 or so hours at room temperature.
Keep in a dark and cool place.
Cap bottle tightly after each use.
To store olive oil over long periods; keep around 16° C or low 60° F.
Storage in basement is fine but keep off the bare ground.
Do NOT keep bottles in direct sunlight.
Do NOT keep bottle next to stove or oven
Do NOT store or forget bottles in the car during hot summer days.
CAUTION: Bottles may shatter due to expansion of oil from excessive heat.
It is a good question and has much to do with how the oil is stored, used and cared for. The answer is that it can extend beyond the generally accepted 2 years. Most high quality olive oils show a “best before” date of 2 years from bottling. The date is “good to know” but in no way disqualifies the oil from usage or indicates that it has gone bad.
It is also a date more geared to when the bottle is opened versus when the oil is used. Generally olive oil is good to use up to 12 months after opening assuming proper care: cap the bottle to keep air out, keep away from direct sunlight and finally keep from a direct heat source. So capping and storing in a cool cupboard is best.
Olive oil is very stable especially if stored properly (unopened, cool and dark). Best place to store is in the original carton in basement or similar space. Olive oil generally mellows over time but does not go bad or rancid unless abused (direct sunlight or a heat source nearby or left uncapped to the air).
Although the bottle does have a “Best before” date – you can rest assured that the oil can be used beyond that date.
Strictly speaking “best before” BBD is exactly that. It is not an indication that olive oil is gone bad or about to go bad.
The olive oil remains excellent quality and totally safe. “Best Before” is valid on many items dairy, meats, etc. It is much less relevant or useful for olive oil which is relatively stable if stored properly (unopened, cool and dark) – especially if it was kept in its original carton.
Only the best quality oils even provide a best before date (vast majority do not). To help put it into perspective, Canadians / Americans buy olive oil at grocery stores which has no date and can be a mix of oils as old as 5-6-7 years (according to Thomas Mueller’s book about the olive oil industry).
For all these reasons, we do not hesitate to recommend that Zatoun properly stored can be used with full confidence even 1 or 2 years beyond the BBD.
FOR COLD WEATHER CONDITIONS: Zatoun olive oil shipped in cold months may not look its usual, beautiful appearance andconsistency when you receive it. In fact, you may be a little concerned at its appearance. The freezing point of olive oil is 4° C or 39° F and it begins to congeal below 13° C or 55° F.
In the freezing and thawing process the various fats and oils form into quite amazing particles which may look unappetizing. Please rest assured that this process does NO HARM to the oil. It will return to its original state at room temperature after a couple of days and the flavour will not be affected.
Once the oil has frozen in transport or storage, “room temperature” does not automatically or quickly heat it. It needs to be 70+F or 21+C room temperature or take many days. Even 65F or 18C is not warm enough to heat the oil from a congealed state. Zatoun is of such high quality that it begins to congeal in the low 60’s and progressively into the 50’s.
Crystallization or formations or sediment in the oil disappear when warmed by the surrounding oil when dispersed by turning the bottle upside down and shaking. Remove the bottles from the box as cardboard is an excellent insulator and keeps the cold in. Lay the bottles on their side to increase the surface area of distribution to warmer areas. The bottles may need more than one periodic shaking or turning over.
It sounds pretty involved but not really – just some tips to speed up warming.
We are very sorry for this situation. No question it is very aggravating. Please accept our apologies for the inconvenience caused.
Although rare, it does happen to the occasional bottle. Capping is a mechanical process and it does happen from time to time to bottles going through the bottling line when the crimping cap machine is needing to be readjusted or when refilling new metal blanks and machine has to readjusted and ramps up to operating speed.
Here are some instructions about opening additional bottles.
- Twist cap with a dry and firm grip and rotate slowly for maximum torque.
- If you encounter a problem, the least messy and least dangerous way is:
CAREFULLY use a knife blade (does not need to be sharp – actually can be rather dull) to cut 3 or 4 of the small metal nibs that connect the cap to the lower bottom ring around the bottle neck. The safest method to cut the nibs is to exert the blade edge of a knife against the nib until it weakens or snaps. Cutting only 3 or 4 nibs will allow the cap to twist off properly.
It sometimes happens that single bottles in cartons may have soiled labels. This is likely from the bottling, labeling or packaging process. It is amazing what one single drop of olive oil can do!
Most level of soiling is minor and however regrettable is overlooked by most customers – thank you for your understanding. In extreme cases, were a refund is sought, Zatoun is happy to oblige with a full credit to be applied to the next order.