“I am daughter of the sun. . .
I am the olive tree, the blessed one. ” K. Palamas. The olive tree is inevitably linked with Greek history, culture andlife, as is olive oil, the product of its fruit. Greeks have alwaysconsidered the olive tree and its fruit as a gift from the gods. Homerreferred to olive oil as “liquid gold.
“Since ancient times, olive oil has been a central feature of Greeklife. The origins of the olive tree cultivation are lost in prehistory. Special urns and storage pits unearthed among the ruins of Knossos in Creteindicate that in 2000 B. C.
the ancient people of the region utilized oliveoil and olives pretty much the same way as their descendants do today. Greek mythology presents it as a sacred tree blessed by Athena, the ancientGreek goddess of wisdom. Among Aristotle’s works, the “Antenaeon Politeia” also illustrates theimportance of olive oil in ancient Greek life. For the ancient Greeks, theolive tree represented, among other things, power and peace: power becauseof its longevity and its ability to flourish on the most barren terrain andpeace because of its solitary tranquility.
For this reason, the winners ofthe ancient Olympic Games, who represented the same ideals of strength andpeace, were awarded a wreath made from a branch of wild olive. Today Greece is the world’s most important exporter of superior oliveoil. The love and high esteem of the Greek olive grower for the olive treeis passed on from generation to generation and from family to family. Withthe birth of a child an olive tree is planted which will grow and developalong with the child. When the child starts school at the age of six, theolive tree is ready to produce its fruit.
The blessed tree grows up withthe family, only it will have a much longer life and will still be aroundto be tended by the next generation, and the one after that. Each year, ityields its annual crop of olives in return for the labor and love expendedon it. Those interested in healthy living have rediscovered olive oil. Inrecent decades the medical value of pure olive oil has once again come tothe foreground.
Modern medicine admires the scientific expertise ofancient medical practices. Today’s doctors and dieticians are drawing ourattention to the need to include olive oil in our daily diets, not only asa 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, oliveoil is an invaluable factor for general maintenance of the human being. For example, because of the monounsaturated oleic acid it contains, itcontrols the cholesterol in the blood by improving the level of thelipoprotein HDL, and as a result the metabolism of cholesterol, which is amajor factor in heart disease, thus it has an effective means in theprevention of cardiovascular disease.
A current result of medical studies not only reflect how helpful oliveoil can be for people with medical problems such as high cholesterol, butalso helps people with poor metabolism, obesity, and breast cancer. It isuseful in combating liver problems and is a natural remedy for constipationand gall bladder ailments. Recent research has proved that olive oilinhibits the formation of gallstones. It took olive oil 3,000 years to become the subject of scientificinquiry.
In the meantime, the Mediterranean people have been enjoying itsbenefits and taste. Along with vegetables, legumes, fresh fruits, nuts andwhole grain products, and modest quantities of dairy products, fish, andpoultry, olive oil has contributed to a dietary combination that meetshealth criteria as defined by science today. From ancient Greek time until today a large number of incentives wasgiven to individual producers, thus today’s Greece produces about 300,000tons per year and despite its small size, possesses the third positionamong olive oil producers in the world using the most advanced methods andthe most sophisticated technologies. But this position is fictitious takingin the account that over 70% of the total Greek production is Extra Virginolive oil. Half of that is exported to other olive oil productive countriesraising their official ratio.
In fact Greece is the world’s largest exporter of Extra Virgin oliveoil. About one-third of the total production (Extra Virgin and Virgin) isexported. The remaining quantity gives Greece the first position in percapita consumption at world level. The tradition of the production of olive oil spans more than fivemillennia in Grecian area. Unquestionably, the Greek olive oil is by farthe best in the world!