The olive tree features in the myths of the founding of Athens: an olive is said to have sprung from the barren rock at the bidding of Athena, the city state's patron, when she fought with Poseidon. This suggests some relation to the first planting of the olive in Greece.
Many Greek and Roman writings refer to the olive and its beneficial role. References to the olive are found as much in the Bible as in the Koran. The ancient Greeks used to smear olive oil on their bodies and hair as a matter of grooming and good health. The winners of the ancient Olympic Games were awarded a crown of olive leaves.
Over the years the olive tree has been the symbol of peace, wisdom, glory, fertility, power and pureness.
Greece is the country with the biggest production in extra virgin olive oil. The ideal climatic conditions ensure extra virgin olive oil of unique quality with rich flavour, special bright colour, with beneficial nutritious value. (The sign “Product of Greece” should always be accompanied from the existence in the label of EL40xxx code, which certifies the relevant authorisation from the Hellenic Ministry of Rural Development and Food.)
Peloponnese is a large peninsula in Greece, with small valleys, rugged mountains and coastlines. There are seven Prefectures of the Peloponnese; Korinthia, Lakonia, Argolis, Arcadia, Achaia, Elia, and Messinia.
From Mycenae, to Sparti, to Mistra, the Peloponese has seen its share of history. The Peloponese is one of the most historic parts of Greece. It is the land of ancient games of Olympia, where from every 4 years the Olympic flame is born and leaving to the global journey. Hundreds of ancient temples and ruins stand at Corinth, Epidaurus, Mycenae, Nafplion, Olympia, and other historic sites. In the Peloponnese, the cultivation of the olive trees began around the 3rd century B.C.
Under the mountain of Taygetus on the Southern coast of Peloponnese, lays Kalamata, a modern provincial capital, with an international airport and an important harbor to the Mediterranean Sea.
Kalamata is a beautiful Mediterranean city, with a long agricultural tradition, famous for its fertile land and the great quality of its products. But most of all it is famous for producing the finest olive oil in the world thanks to the ideal for the olive tree climatic and soil conditions, the period and way of harvest. European Union in order to protect the unique Kalamata extra virgin olive oil, with its’ regulation (1065/97) gives to it the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). European Union created the system of Protected Designation of Origin in the effort of promotion and protection of qualitative agricultural products. As PDO are characterized the olive oils of which the unique and exceptional characteristics are owed in the climatic and soil conditions, in the way of harvest as well as in the variety of olive at the specific place of production. The PDO sign should be always accompanied by the equivalent sticker for PDO products on the bottle. In this sticker it is mentioned the origin and the serial number of each PDO product item followed by the production year (e.g. for Kalamata “KA / No xxx.xxx / 08”).
THE OLIVE TREE
Kalamata is the capital city of Messinia province where Koroni also belongs, the village from which the famous Koroneiki variety olive oil took its’ name, characterized from the International Council of Olive Oil as “variety of universal heritage”. The koroneiki olive tree is an evergreen tree of 3-15 metres height with narrow lance-shaped leaves of green colour on one side and silver on the other, small crop of green colour, taking a mauve aspect when matures with content in oil 18-22%, that presents differences from place to place. It has a strong resistance and keeps bearing fruits even under the most unfavorable climatic conditions of drought, strong winds and high temperatures, while showing special endurance during temperatures bordering on 0°C. It is the most productive variety. The production of Messinia annually approaches the 50.000 tons of superior quality, Koroneiki variety, extra virgin olive oil very rich in antioxidants, fact establishing it as a beneficial for the human organism nutrition.
Kalamatas’ and Messinias’ extra virgin olive oil is exceptional. Fruity in aromas with a lightly bitter taste of fresh cut grass and a bright green colour taking a golden aspect while maturing.
In the Messinian area, olive trees bloom at the end of spring (from April – May) while harvesting begins at the end of November and ends in February in the more southern areas.
To produce olive oil of the highest quality, the fruit must be gathered as soon as the color changes, when there is the highest content of oil and the best taste. The harvesting of the fruit is still mainly done in the traditional way, by hand.
The trees with olives are pruned, while at the same time, branches with fewer olives are shaken with rods to drop onto cloth or nets spread on the ground beneath, from where they are gathered into sacks. As soon as the olives are gathered, they must be transported to the olive oil press as quickly as possible. This is because if the fruit remains, the olives will begin to spoil or become fermented.
The procedure to convert of olives into olive oil consists of three stages:
• The crushing of the fruit
• The compression of the pulp
• The separation of oil from water and the dregs of olive.
To turn the fruit into olive oil, the fruit is crushed inside a press. In olden times, large rocks where used to crush the olives to produce olive oil. Nowadays, the olives are first washed and separated from the leaves, and then put through the olive press to be crushed and pressed. Water is added to the mixture, which is passed through filters to eliminate any chance sediment, and subsequently the water and olive oil are separated.
At this point, it is very important for the press to make cold extraction at the crop, meaning that the olive oil juice should be taken with filtering or centrifugation in a temperature under 27 °C. When the olive is extracted under high temperature the quantity it gives in oil is bigger. The high temperature however degrades and alters the composition of olive oil, its qualitative and tasty characteristics. “Cold extraction” guarantees the maintenance for longer time of the low acidity, the nutritious components of olive oil and its natural aromas and flavours.
The natural juice of olive, obtained directly from olives and solely by mechanical means without any absolutely other treatment, is the famous extra virgin olive oil, the highest quality of olive oil. Its acidity should not exceed the 0.8% however the best quality of this oil has quite lower acidity (0.3%-0.4%).
ACIDITY is the percentage of free fatty acids. The free fatty acids are harmful to the human organism. For this reason the lowest possible acidity in the olive oil is one the basic criteria in choice of olive oil. However there are chemical procedures that can reduce the acidity in the olive oil (refinement) misleading the consumer. Therefore a low acidity level should always be accompanied from low percentages also in five more basic elements of quality: (label focus) Peroxides<20, Waxes<250, K270<0.22, K232<2.50, DK<0.01, (according to the regulation of European Union 1989/2003).
The extra virgin olive oil keeps all the antioxidant substances of olive oil and consequently it is considered as the best kind of oil, product of superior category with enormous biological value and excellent tasty characteristics.
It is a totally natural product, comprising the basic source of fats in Mediterranean Nutrition. The fats of vegetable origin contain more polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat acids and are considered friendly for the organism (body) and health, while they do not contain any cholesterol in contrast to the animal fats which contain a large number of saturated fat acids and cholesterol that are dangerous for our health.
A correct and balanced nutrition necessarily contains olive oil on a daily basis.
Hippocrates was foremost in recognizing the beneficial qualities of olive oil and introduced it as a therapy to heal wounds, muscular pains and other ailments. Olive oil has the properties to reduce “bad” cholesterol LDL (low density lipoproteins that cause arteriosclerosis). Varied research has proven the role and importance of olive oil in the prevention and reduction of different types of cancer and heart disease and in the reduction of cholesterol.
Research carried out internationally has demonstrated that inhabitants of the Mediterranean Region live longer and have fewer cardiac problems and other related diseases. Studies have shown that this is attributed to their particular nutrition, which is characterized as The Mediterranean Diet, and which continues to gain recognition in Europe, America and Asia. In accordance with this diet, people should eat a lot of pulses, pasta and cereals, much fruit and many vegetables, a limited amount of cheese products, fish and poultry and the least amount of red meat. Cooking should be done only with extra virgin olive oil.
More detailed, as the main source of monounsaturated fat acids, the olive oil helps:
• The reducing of "bad" cholesterol (LDL) in blood.
• The maintenance in the blood of "good" cholesterol (HDL).
• The good function of the intestine.
• The prevention of cardiovascular diseases and the protection of the organism from the coronary disease due to the strong antioxidants it contains.
• The cure of gastric and duodenum ulcer, as it eases the digestion.
• The decline of the gastric juices.
• The best immersion of calcium by the organism.
• The correct metabolism of diabetics and consequently the balance of the diabetes rates.
• The prevention from cancer.
• While last but not least … it revitalizes the skin.
Moreover, the essence and taste that it gives to all foods, is unique.
Tips and information
- There are estimated to be 800 million olive trees in the world, 93% of which are found in the Mediterranean Region, their place of origin, and from where the best quality olive oil is still produced.
- There are more that 70 types of the olive tree worldwide.
- Green olives are actually black olives that have not been allowed to ripen.
- The Egyptians used olive oil to facilitate the transport of the boulders used in the building of the Pyramids.
- Olive oil first appeared in cook books 2000 years ago.
- The natural life-span of an olive tree is 300-600 years and in some cases may exceed the life expectancy of 1000 years!!!