Olive, orange and more: Mediterranean crops

Sweet tropical fruits, aromatic herbs and spices, spicy olives - woody plants whose fruits we all enjoy grow throughout the Mediterranean region. Some of the best known are listed here, together with others offering somewhat different culinary delights.

  • Fig, Common Fig
    Fig, Common Fig (Ficus carica)

    The Common Fig has distinctive large leaves with net-like patterning and inconspicuous flowers enclosed in a jug-like structure. The tasty false fruits are green or purple-green in colour. Also thrives in Central European regions with mild winters.

  • Strawberry Tree
    Strawberry Tree (Arbutus unedo)

    The Strawberry Tree is an evergreen shrub with decorative, edible fruits and attractive flower panicles. Flowers and fruits appear at the same time.

  • Mastic
    Mastic (Pistacia lentiscus)

    The Mastic is a shrub or tree with a dense network of branches. Its bark produces mastic resin, which is not only used for medicinal purposes, but also to flavour wine (retsina) or schnaps. Mastic resin is produced on the island Chios in particular.

  • Orange
    Orange (Citrus sinensis)

    The Orange is a medium-sized tree from China with tasty fruit. It is the most widely cultivated citrus fruit, followed by tangerines and lemons, and ripens best in Mediterranean climates as it prefers cool temperatures at harvest time. The name orange comes from the ancient Indian name "naranga", meaning "the fruit that elephants like".

  • Olive
    Olive (Olea europaea)

    Very long-lived evergreen tree, one of the oldest plants to be cultivated as a source of oil in the Mediterranean regions. The trees growing in olive groves are pruned. The more gnarled a tree is, the greater its yield reputedly becomes. Olive trees reach great age. The oldest tree stands in Trevi, Italy, and is around 1700 years old.

  • Bay Laurel, True Laurel, Sweet Bay, Grecian Laurel, Laurel
    Bay Laurel, True Laurel, Sweet Bay, Grecian Laurel, Laurel (Laurus nobilis)

    The Bay Laurel is a tree or shrub whose leathery, aromatic leaves are used as a spice. Its oblong berries are black. A wreath of bay leaves has been a mark of distinction since Antiquity.

  • Lemon
    Lemon (Citrus limon)

    The Lemon is a small, thorny tree with juicy thick-shelled yellow fruit.

  • Date Palm
    Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera)

    Slender palm with lattice pattern on the cane, pinnate leaves and tasty, sweet date fruit.

  • Carob Tree, St. John's Bread
    Carob Tree, St. John's Bread (Ceratonia siliqua)

    Robust evergreen, salt-tolerant tree whose fruit is used to make cocoa or coffee substitute. The pulp - carob - is dried and ground. It resembles cocoa.

  • Pomegranate
    Pomegranate (Punica granatum)

    The Pomegranate is a deciduous tree producing a tasty fruit with sweet seeds. Its name is derived from the Latin word for kernels or seeds. The pomegranates which grow on the island of Grenada make a favourite syrup for cocktails (hence the alternative name Grenadine).

  • Almond
    Almond (Prunus dulcis)

    The Almond is a small deciduous tree with decorative flowers and a favourite stone fruit.

  • Rosemary
    Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

    Dwarf shrub with attractive flowers, aromatic smell, slightly bitter taste. The leaves are used for culinary purposes.

  • Caper
    Caper (Capparis spinosa)

    Small thorny shrub. Its pickled buds yield the capers used in cooking.

  • Date-Plum
    Date-Plum (Diospyros lotus)

    The Date-Plum is a small tree with edible fruits which originally came from Asia.

  • Sea Grape
    Sea Grape (Coccoloba uvifera)

    The Sea Grape grows predominantly on beaches and dunes as it is highly tolerant of the salty sea spray.

  • Indian Fig Opuntia, Prickly Pear
    Indian Fig Opuntia, Prickly Pear (Opuntia ficus indica)

    The Indian Fig Cactus has been widely established throughout the Mediterranean region for a long time. Its fruit is extremely tasty, but unfortunately also very prickly.

  • Apricot
    Apricot (Prunus armeniaca)

    The Apricot is a small tree from China with delicious reddish-yellow fruits.