Greece and the Olive
The Olive tree, in its wild form, allegedly originated in Greece around 12000 BC and, according to history, was first cultivated by either the Syrians or the Minoan civilization on Crete between 3500-2500 BC. This “Liquid Gold”, as described by Homer, held a prominent position in much of ancient Greek society. The Olive tree was considered the sacred tree of the goddess Athena and the ancient Greeks knew the beneficial properties of Olive Oil. Olive oil was used extensively in Greece during ancient times and was associated with culture, religion, nutrition, health and beauty. This is evidenced by the numerous archaeological findings which testify to the importance of the Olive in Greece and its direct relationship with the social environment. The winners of the Olympic Games were crowned with an olive branch and were awarded litres of Olive Oil as trophies. The ancient Greeks attributed their physical strength and mental well-being to the consumption of Olive Oil. Moreover, in accordance with the code of Hippocrates, the father of medicine, Olive Oil was considered beneficial for more than 60 therapeutic purposes.
In recent years, scientific and medical studies have concluded that the Mediterranean diet is the best recipe for longevity, and its positive health effects are becoming universally more widely accepted. The term “Mediterranean diet” refers to food that is characterized by low consumption of fat, especially saturated fatty acids. The Mediterranean diet is also rich in vitamins, whilst the main type of healthy fat used is Olive Oil. A healthy balanced diet should include Olive Oil consumption on a daily basis.
Learn about Olive Oil
Olive oil is a rich source of unsaturated fatty acids which significantly contribute to having a healthy heart. Specifically, a diet rich in Olive Oil reduces the LDL cholesterol level (“bad” cholesterol) in the blood, offering protection against the formation of atherosclerotic plaque in the vessels and against arterial occlusions, thereby protecting the body from cardiovascular diseases.
Furthermore, it is known to prevent some types of cancer. Due to the abundant levels of vitamin E, Olive Oil has rich antioxidant properties which extensive studies have indicated shield the body from breast cancer. The healing properties of vitamin E also contribute to healthy skin and hair.
It is best used raw on food, but if fried, it belongs to a category of edible oils which maintain their properties at high temperatures. It has 9 calories / gram, similar to other edible oils. The only thing that can be increased by the consumption of Olive Oil is life expectancy!
Olive Oil Properties
The assessment of Olive Oil properties are conducted under fixed internationally accepted standards associated with issues such as the production process, the degree of acidity levels and minimum specification readings. These are measured by various testing methods, and also include assessment of the taste, aroma and color of the Olive Oil.
The rich aroma, flavor and color of Olive Oil is not the result of processing, but a result of the variety or species of the Olive tree and how it’s cultivated. Olive Oil differs from region to region and is influenced by both climatic conditions and the quality of the soil. An important factor is also the process of harvesting, crushing and storage, as the final texture of Olive Oil is largely dependent on them. The unique fruity taste and subtle peppery aroma of the Olive fruit is also present in the resulting Olive Oil, and depending on its acidity, accordingly will have either a mild or more dynamic character.
‘Extra Virgin Olive Oil’ is considered as Olive Oil with maximum 0.8% acidity. It is considered to be the most sophisticated edible oil, since it is produced by crushing only the first fruit of the Olive tree at low temperatures (cold pressing), and hence it does not undergo the refining and processing that other edible oils undergo.
‘Standard Olive Oil’ is considered as Olive Oil with maximum 2% acidity. Natural, delicious Olive Oil, produced directly from olives and solely by mechanical methods, without chemical intervention.
‘Olive Coupe’ is a blend of refined and virgin Olive Oil, with maximum 1% acidity. This is quality oil, with low levels of cholesterol.