“I am daughter of the sun…I am the olive tree, the blessed one.” K.
The olive tree is inevitably linked with Greek history, culture and
life, as is olive oil, the product of its fruit. Greeks have always
considered the olive tree and its fruit as a gift from the gods. Homer
referred to olive oil as “liquid gold.”
Since ancient times, olive oil has been a central feature of Greek
life. The origins of the olive tree cultivation are lost in prehistory.
Special urns and storage pits unearthed among the ruins of Knossos in Crete
indicate that in 2000 B.C. the ancient people of the region utilized olive
oil and olives pretty much the same way as their descendants do today.
Greek mythology presents it as a sacred tree blessed by Athena, the ancient
Greek goddess of wisdom.
Among Aristotle’s works, the “Antenaeon Politeia” also illustrates the
importance of olive oil in ancient Greek life. For the ancient Greeks, the
olive tree represented, among other things, power and peace: power because
of its longevity and its ability to flourish on the most barren terrain and
peace because of its solitary tranquility. For this reason, the winners of
the ancient Olympic Games, who represented the same ideals of strength and
peace, were awarded a wreath made from a branch of wild olive.
Today Greece is the world’s most important exporter of superior olive
oil. The love and high esteem of the Greek olive grower for the olive tree
is passed on from generation to generation and from family to family. With
the birth of a child an olive tree is planted which will grow and develop
along with the child. When the child starts school at the age of six, the
olive tree is ready to produce its fruit. The blessed tree grows up with
the family, only it will have a much longer life and will still be around
to be tended by the next generation, and the one after that. Each year, it
yields its annual crop of olives in return for the labor and love expended
Those interested in healthy living have rediscovered olive oil. In
recent decades the medical value of pure olive oil has once again come to
the foreground. Modern medicine admires the scientific expertise of
ancient medical practices. Today’s doctors and dieticians are drawing our
attention to the need to include olive oil in our daily diets, not only as
a basic nutritional food, but also for preventive and therapeutic purposes.
The physical properties of olive oil make it the most suitable edible oil,
easily absorbed by the body, with beneficial effects on the stomach.
Research has demonstrated that, in addition to its nutritional value, olive
oil is an invaluable factor for general maintenance of the human being.
For example, because of the monounsaturated oleic acid it contains, it
controls the cholesterol in the blood by improving the level of the
lipoprotein HDL, and as a result the metabolism of cholesterol, which is a
major factor in heart disease, thus it has an effective means in the
prevention of cardiovascular disease.
A current result of medical studies not only reflect how helpful olive
oil can be for people with medical problems such as high cholesterol, but
also helps people with poor metabolism, obesity, and breast cancer. It is
useful in combating liver problems and is a natural remedy for constipation
and gall bladder ailments. Recent research has proved that olive oil
inhibits the formation of gallstones.
It took olive oil 3,000 years to become the subject of scientific
inquiry. In the meantime, the Mediterranean people have been enjoying its
benefits and taste. Along with vegetables, legumes, fresh fruits, nuts and
whole grain products, and modest quantities of dairy products, fish, and
poultry, olive oil has contributed to a dietary combination that meets
health criteria as defined by science today.
From ancient Greek time until today a large number of incentives was
given to individual producers, thus today’s Greece produces about 300,000
tons per year and despite its small size, possesses the third position
among olive oil producers in the world using the most advanced methods and
the most sophisticated technologies. But this position is fictitious taking
in the account that over 70% of the total Greek production is Extra Virgin
olive oil. Half of that is exported to other olive oil productive countries
raising their official ratio.
In fact Greece is the world’s largest exporter of Extra Virgin olive
oil. About one-third of the total production (Extra Virgin and Virgin) is
exported. The remaining quantity gives Greece the first position in per
capita consumption at world level.
The tradition of the production of olive oil spans more than five
millennia in Grecian area. Unquestionably, the Greek olive oil is by far
the best in the world!