Sunday, October 18, 2009

Olive Press

Each fall BYU students have the wonderful opportunity to experience making olive oil using presses in the Biblical gardens at the center.

Gethsemane means olive press. It is here that olives were pressed into oil. That oil was used anciently as a source of light and life. Olive oil was used as a fuel for lamps, as a source of cooking fuel and as a food. It was also used to anoint kings and to dress wounds. Its mash was used as a heating fuel and as food for stock. It is symbolic that in the place of the olive press, Jesus under the press/weight of our sins brought use redeeming light and life.
Making olive oil is labor intensive (nowadays it is done with machines). First the olives are harvested and then they must be sorted and cleaned.
The olives are placed in the basin of the olive mill with its heavy mill stone.
The whole olive is then crushed under the weight of the stone.
The students all took turns pushing the stone and shoveling mash.
The Emmetts took their turn too.
Too bad there were no donkeys around to help.
The mash is then placed into mesh baskets made of hemp.
The oil can already be felt.
The baskets are then placed under a large screw press.
As the first oil oozes out it is reddish green in color--It is a symbolic image of the blood of Christ oozing out of every pore to bring us all salvation.

The other press is a weighted fulcrum.
Ropes are tightened to raise up stones that then pull down on the log fulcrum which then puts weight on the pile of mesh baskets.
Additional weight can be added by cute children.
Under the weight of the press, the first oil begins to flow.After a few hours of pressing and settling the olive oil is then skimmed off the top and stored for future use.
For further reading I highly recommend Truman Madsen's May 9, 1982 BYU devotional talk about the Olive Press.


  1. Chad, we "olive" for your Jerusalem reports. Great stuff, and keep 'em coming.

  2. What a great explaination of the process of making olive oil between the pictures and the narrative. Many thanks.