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6193. OLIVE, Cultivation of.—

The olive
is a tree the least known in America, and yet
the most worthy of being known. Of all the
gifts of heaven to man, it is next to the most
precious, if it be not the most precious. Perhaps
it may claim a preference even to bread,
because there is such an infinitude of vegetables,
which it renders a proper and comfortable
nourishment. In passing the Alps at the
Col de Tende, where they are mere masses of
rock, wherever there happens to be a little soil,
there are a number of olive trees, and a village
supported by them. Take away these trees,
and the same ground in corn would not support
a single family. A pound of oil which can
be bought for three or four pence sterling, is
equivalent to many pounds of flesh, by the
quantity of vegetables it will prepare, and render
fit and comfortable food. Without this
tree, the country of Provence and territory of
Genoa would not support one-half, perhaps not
one-third, their present inhabitants. The nature
of the soil is of little consequence if it be
dry. The trees are planted from fifteen to
twenty feet apart, and when tolerably good,
will yield fifteen or twenty pounds of oil yearly,
one with another. There are trees which yield
much more. They begin to render good crops
at twenty years old, and last till killed by cold,
which happens at some time or other, even in
their best positions in France. But they put
out again from their roots. In Italy, I am told
they have trees two hundred years old.—
To William Drayton. Washington ed. ii, 199.
(P. 1787)