Olive oil is very important in Greek culture and food and is the foundation that Greek food was built on. There are an abundance of different varieties of olives in Greece. From Kalamata to Peloponessos, black olives to green, you can be sure you will be getting a different and exquisite experience each time you bite into this Greek treat.
From all these wonderful olives comes a beautiful oil – an oil so wonderful, that the Italians actually used to buy it from the Greeks. Olive oil is used extensively in Greek cooking, and it is also a favorite to drizzle over salads, dip bread in, and use in stews.
People eat more of this treasure in Greece than any country in the world – about 26 liters per person, every year. By comparison, people in Italy and Spain eat an average of 14 liters a year per person.
All of this consumption is perhaps one reason that Greeks often remain so healthy – olive oil has a staggering amount of health benefits. It contains something called monounsaturated fatty acids, which can reduce your cholesterol. Antioxidants, flavonoids, polyphenols, and vitamin E also can help prevent heart disease, increase digestion, reduce inflammation and even help fight colon cancer. And it tastes good too! It's no wonder this is such a popular ingredient in Greek food.
A Special Place In Greek Mythology
The goddess Athena created the olive tree as a way to get in good with the people of Acropolis. Acropolis became known as the birthplace of olive oil. While the Armenians and Egyptians were aware of the olive tree, the Greeks were the first one to take part in the full-scale cultivation of the olive into oil, between the 7th and 3rd centuries BC.
According to mythology, the goddess Athena caused the olive tree to spring up so that she could win the favor of the inhabitants of Acropolis. Hence, the Acropolis is always depicted with an ancient olive tree growing on it.
Olive Trees Are Revered In Greek Culture And Families
In the Orthodox religion, olives and olive oil were a symbol of peace and love. They were a part of many religious rites, such as baptism. Olive trees are often planted when a child is born, as a symbol of something that will grow and develop like the child will. When the child is ready to start school at age seven, this is when the trees start producing olives.
Extra Virgin – The Best Greece Has To Offer
There are different kinds of olive oil, used for different things. Extra virgin olive oil is considered to be the best class of Greek olive oil. It is used on salads for dressing, for dipping bread into, and sometimes for sauteing at low heat. It is made mechanically instead of being chemically produced, and is known to have the best taste of any olive oil. When extra virgin olive oil is heated, it can lose its taste and start to break apart, so it is not generally used in cooking. Extra virgin olive oil has the least acidity of any kind.
Virgin oil has slightly more acidity, but still a small amount; and is still thought to have a good taste. The oil is refined and usually chemical extracted. This is the form of olive oil most commonly used in cooking.
Different olives produce different flavors in oils, and most Greeks have their favorites. No matter what Greek olive oil you choose, though, you can't go wrong. It lends a pleasing and polished taste to almost any dish. Greek food would not be Greek food without the discovery of this fine treasure.
Olive Oil: The Treasure of Greece