Cretan olive oil & recipes

 

Health benefits of olive oils

Many researches focused on the Mediterranean diet showed that among people in countries where olive oil flows freely, heart disease is exceedingly rare. This is based on the fact that olive oil mainly consists of monounsaturated fats which show a great resistance to oxidation and reduce the levels of LDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol) in blood without influencing the levels of HDL cholesterol the "good" cholesterol.

In addition olive oil has a variety of constituents, such us tocoferols and polyphenols that show a great antiradical behaviour by capturing free radicals which are damaging DNA and eventually cause cancer.

Olive oil history

History of Greeks is highly connected with the history of olive oil and its importance has been well known since 5000 bc Homer called olive oil the "LIQUID GOLD" and there are more than 60 pharmaceutical uses of olive oil as described in Hippocrates code. Minoans, a great civilization located in Crete, in the past started exporting olive oil and olives thousand years ago and until today there are olive trees in Crete, which are 3000 to 5000 years old!!!

The Cretan tradition enriched with nowadays knowledge and combined with the excellent climate of Crete results in a high quality olive oil. Cretan olive oil with its distinctive aroma. Its fruitful taste and its delight green colour are now travelling worldwide offering the benefits of its nature to everyone.

Greek olive oil: an unexploited gold mine

Historical background

From the times of Ancient Greece up to the present, the olive has been regarded as the holiest tree of our land and is directly connected with the culture and nutrition of our country’s inhabitants. The olive tree has been harvested in Greece since antiquity. For the ancient Greeks, the olive represented and constituted the symbol of peace. The nutrition, the religion and the art of the ancient Greeks contained elements of the olive, whose branch was used as a symbol of peace, wisdom and victory. Our ancestors respected this tree so much that the winners of the ancient Olympic Games were awarded with a wreath taken from the wild olive tree.

Hippocrates, the renowned doctor of ancient times, made use of the olive oil in the treatment of his patients. Homer referred to it as "the golden liquid" and according to the ancient texts, olive oil was used in cleaning, the production of perfumes, cosmetic care, medicine, and for lighting.

Modern consumer trends

In recent years, the demand for olive oil has increased so greatly that consequently a large variety of bottled olive oil can be found in food stores and on the supermarket shelves. This is good, of course, because it offers the consumer a wider range to choose from, but, at the same time, it can cause some confusion of the type “why should I prefer brand A to B since brand A is more expensive than Β and they belong to the same qualitative category”. In this case, we must be aware of more information in order to make the right choice.

The olive oil brands that are found on the shelves of the supermarkets are those that we usually buy. As is the case all over the world, we can find Extra Virgin Olive Oil at prices that differ significantly among themselves. Unfortunately, many of the olive oils that we find on the shelf are of mediocre quality mainly because of the fact that they come from the mixture of olive oil from different countries in order to produce a relatively cheap product.

The price of olive oil is directly connected to its quality. Better quality means a higher price. Obviously, something good cannot help but be more expensive. This is a basic rule of the market for all products and I do not think that anybody can disagree with that. Therefore, whoever is interested in enjoying good food and protecting his health must always have in his kitchen a bottle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil whose quality is discernible.

Why should I choose Greek extra virgin olive oil?

Types of olive oil quality:

The qualitative classification of extra virgin and of virgin olive oil complies with international criteria that are based on the chemical and organoleptic characteristics of the product.

  • The chemical characteristics refer to the acidity, the hyperacidity, the wax, the oxidation indicators etc. of the olive oil.
    The chemical characteristics are analysed in a laboratory with the use of suitable equipment and specific methods.
  • The organoleptic characteristics refer to the aroma, the flavour and the colour of the product. The organoleptic characteristics are examined and evaluated by specially trained tasters based on determined criteria and procedures. The organoleptic characteristics comprise the decisive criterion for the quality of the olive oil.

Based on the examination of the chemical and organoleptic characteristics, virgin olive oil is sorted into two categories:

a) Extra Virgin Olive Oil and
b) Virgin Olive Oil

In the case of Greek olive oil, over 80% of its production consists of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, excellent chemical characteristics and with exceptional ratings from the specialists in whatever concerns its organoleptic characteristics.

The average annual production of olive oil in Greece is around 400,000 tonnes, of which approximately 250,000 are consumed in the domestic market. It must be noted that Greeks hold the first place worldwide in the per capita consumption of olive oil at a quantity that surpasses 20 kilos per year.

From the above figures, it is easy to conclude that every year GREECE turns over a surplus of olive oil in the range of approximately 150,000 tonnes which has to find buyers outside Greece. Up to now, the balance of the market has been assured through the exports of about 20,000 tonnes of brand-name olive oil, while the remaining quantity, virtually in its total, ends up in bulk form in Italy.

It is a well-known fact to all those who are involved with the product that Greek olive oil that is exported in bulk comprises the basis in the mixtures made in order to improve the olive oil of other countries. As a rule, GREECE does not import olive oil and especially extra virgin olive oil. This simply means that the exports consist of 100% Greek olive oil, at least as far as extra virgin olive oil is concerned.

The qualitative superiority of Greek extra virgin olive oil has to do with its organoleptic characteristics. The aroma, the flavour, but also the colour are the elements that make Greek olive oil distinguishable and justly considered to be one of the best, if not the best, olive oil in the world.

Factors that influence the quality

Surely the question that everybody would like to raise at this point is "why, what is the reason that Greek virgin olive oil stands out for its quality, its aroma, its flavour, its colour". The answer comes from our referral to the factors that influence the quality of olive oil.

a) Assortment of olive trees

Greece has a variety of unique olive trees, such as the Koroneiki, that do not exist in other oil producing countries. This particular variety, which gives olive oil of exceptional quality, is harvested in the most well-known regions of Greece, such as Crete, the Peloponnese, Zakynthos, etc.

b) Climatic conditions – Soil

The chemical synthesis of the soil, as well as the climatic conditions, comprises vital factors for the organoleptic characteristics of the olive oil. The rocky and arid soil of Greece together with its ideal climatic conditions for olive oil (mild temperate climate, a lot of sunlight, and temperatures without great fluctuation), contribute to the production of excellent quality olive oil.

c) Harvesting – elision of the olive fruit

The basic characteristic of olive cultivation in Greece is the small family plot, which means that there is a special relationship with the olive tree that in the end is expressed in the production of olive oil of excellent quality. The olive tree provides occupation and income for more than 500,000 Greek families all over the country. This means that respect, special care and attention are paid to the olive tree.

The gathering of the olive fruit is done the minute the fruit is at the suitable stage of ripening in order to give the best quality of olive oil. The gathering is done with special care, in most cases by hand, so that the fruit is not damaged and the quality of the olive oil is not affected, in spite of the fact that this way is laborious, time-consuming and consequently more costly.

The transportation of the olive fruit to the olive press and its elision for the production of olive oil is carried out in a very short time after the gathering, which also contributes to our having an excellent product of high quality. It is worth noting that Greece has more than 2,000 olive presses, which means that the average production of olive oil for each of these is around 200 tonnes. This is an amount that allows for speedy elision of the olive fruit without delays.

IT IS OBVIOUS & CLEAR that the time and the way the olive fruit is gathered, as well as the time interval between the time and the way the olive fruit is gathered, as well as the time interval between the gathering and the elision of the olive fruit at the olive presses comprise the determining factors for the quality of the olive oil that is produced. The small number of olive trees that each Greek family has combined with the large number of olive presses that exist in my country allow for the gathering of the olive fruit, in the correct way, at the right time and its elision in a very short time period, thus achieving a product of excellent quality.

d) Storage – standardization of the olive oil

The overwhelming majority of the olive oil standardization companies in GREECE are also of a family nature. With modern facilities for the storage and packaging of the product, they produce a traditional product with the most advanced technology. The Greek standardization unit is in a position to satisfy every demand regarding safety, hygiene, packaging and appearance of the olive oil that the global market of the product necessitates. For all of the reasons mentioned above, we are here today to assure you that Greek olive oil due to its quality can guarantee the consumer a significant surplus in its value in relation to its price.

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