The origin of the olive tree and its fruit has been lost in the passing of time but it is certain that it evolved from the shores of the Mediterranean. With the first olive press in the world was found on the island of Crete around 1600 B.C.

Evidence shows this in the find of a fossilised leaf from a cultivated olive tree, estimated to be over 6,000 year old. Olive oil is derived from the fruit itself while the majority of other vegetable oils come from seeds. The principal factor that contributes to the unique flavour of Greek olive oil is location. Fruits that have ripened under the Mediterranean sun preserve all their live ingredients taste, aroma and vitamins.


Greece is blessed with sunshine in abundance, excellent soil conditions, gentle sea breezes, a temperate climate and a year round growing season. It is said that there are more than 137,000,000 olive trees in Greece, and a large majority of those are over 1,000 years old. Some here on Crete have been dated back 4,000 years. Numerous trees are found on small properties in fields and even by the roadside. It is a laborious job to prune, fertilise and of course pick the olives, mostly all achieved in the local time honoured tradition. 


It is a painstakingly hard task to pick olives, and nearly all of the younger generation have no interest in spending their precious weekends collecting olives. Consequently the job is left to the older folk or larger consortiums. Today many family trees are being cut down to make way for better housing and holiday accommodation. On Crete because each crop is harvested on a comparatively small scale, the fruit is only stored in sacks for a few days before pressing, this preserves the rich aroma and flavour of the oil Cretan oil has won the distinction as being one of the best olive oils with a primary reason being this quick procedure.

Olive oil produces many health benefits when used in cooking or when poured over salads. The use of olive oil can improve digestion and can benefit heart metabolism through its low content of cholesterol. Experts claim that olive oil consumption will cause a person to grow shiny hair, prevent dandruff, prevent wrinkles, prevent dry skin and acne, strengthen nails, stop muscle aching, lower blood pressure and cancel out the effects of alcohol.




Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Is obtained from the first cold pressing of the olives without chemicals. It is the most healthy, tasteful and aromatic oil.

Virgin Olive Oil: Comes from the second pressing of the olive pulp. 



Oil and Lemon Dressing:

1 cup olive oil
cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
pepper, oregano
Mix all the ingredients together and shake well. Use the dressing immediately in salads, on grilled meat or fish etc.
Oil and vinegar dressing:
Make in exactly the same way and with the same ingredients as the oil and lemon dressing, only replacing the lemon juice with good wine vinegar.


It was usual in antiquity to consume olive paste, this was either made from whole olives or from what was left of the olives after pressing. It can be used in place of butter. To make olive paste you must mash the olives and flavour them with either coriander, oregano, mint, fennel, thyme, garlic, onion, lemon juice or even hot peppers. Just experiment!

Place about 1 cup or a 12oz jar of drained olives in a food processor with 4 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tsp of oregano (optional), 1 tsp of lemon juice, a clove of garlic, or 1 chopped shallot if preferred, combine and refrigerate for a few hours. 


In Byzantine times, oil was scented with herbs and aromatic plants often to improve the characteristics of certain oil. Oil can be scented with all types of aromatic plants such as rosemary, fennel, dill, mint, basil and parsley. Or with a combination of any of these fresh leaves, after a few days the result is, superbly scented oil that can be used for many dishes.


Products in traditional Greek cooking were made in abundance in the summer months and then preserved in various ways for the winter. Olive oil plays a leading role in the preservation of food. Together with vinegar and salt, it has been used to preserve food since ancient times. It is a natural product for preservation as it stops the air from coming into contact with the food. Many types of food can be kept in olive oil including meat, fish, vegetables, and cheese.



More food pages
: Wine : Eating Out : Olive Oil : Honey : Ofto : Prickly Pear
: Local Specialities : Recipes : Local Cheese : Wild Mushrooms :



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