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Greek Olive Oil History
Greece was the first country to cultivate the olive tree, which is native to the Mediterranean region. There is fossilized evidence of olive trees found in Greece dating back 50,000-60,000 years ago. Olive trees thrive in warm dry climates which make the Mediterranean ideal for growing olive trees. Greece's location near the ocean allows their olive trees to produce up to twenty times the amount of olive fruit than olive trees planted inland. Cultivation of the olive tree began around 3500 BC on the island of Crete. Olive oil production became the island's most important industry for the Minoan Civilization during the Bronze Age. Crete began exporting the olive tree and its oil to mainland Greece, and by 1500 BC, olive oil production flourished during the time of the Mycenaean civilization.
There is evidence that Greek Olive Oil was used in most aspects of everyday life in ancient Greece. The olive tree was considered a symbol for peace, knowledge, wisdom, abundance, health and victory, as winners of Olympic Games were given a crown adorned with a wreath of wild olives. Greek Olive Oil was used as a medicine, a cleanser, as fuel, in religious ceremonies and to treat skin conditions. Greek Olive Oil was a highly prized commodity used as a prize for athletes who won the Panathenaic Games. These games occurred every four years and were considered Athens' most important celebration. It is no wonder that olives and it oils have such a strong link to the traditions, culture and diet of the Greeks.
Greek Olive Oil Production
Today, the tiny country of Greece follows only Spain and Italy in its production of olive oil. There are approximately 120 million olive trees in Greece and nearly half a million people work in the cultivation of the olive tree. Greece has the largest per capita consumption of olive oil in the entire world, with each individual in Greece averaging over 25 liters per year. Approximately eighty percent of Greece's olive oil production is the high quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil ranking Greece as the largest exporter of Extra Virgin Olive Oil in the world. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is oil produced from the first pressing of olives with no chemicals or heat used in its processing, and has acidity below 1%. Greece also offers Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status to certain Greek Olive Oils. This designation requires that a Greek Olive Oil be produced in a certain region, using specific methods and varieties of olives.
Greek Olive Oil Health Benefits
Greek Olive oil plays a major role in the Mediterranean Diet, which is proven to be the healthiest diet in the world. The term "Mediterranean Diet" reflects the eating patterns in the early 1960s of some regions in the Mediterranean such as Crete, areas of Greece and Southern Italy. The Mediterranean Diet emphasizes eating primarily a plant based diet including fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes. Greek Olive oil often replaces butter and other highly saturated fats as the main source of fat in the Mediterranean Diet. Greek Olive oil contains monounsaturated fat — a type of fat that can help reduce LDL cholesterol levels (bad cholesterol) and raise HDL cholesterol levels (good cholesterol). Greek Olive oil also contains high levels of antioxidants and vitamins A, D, E and K. The Mediterranean Diet has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, and is associated with a reduced incidence of cancer, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases.
In general, Greek Olive Oils tend to be grassy, herbaceous and slightly peppery in flavor. Greek Olive Oil is prized for its use in cooking and is excellent when used in sautéing, as a marinade, drizzled over pasta or vegetables or in salad dressings. Greek Virgin and Extra-Virgin Olive Oils are best used when cooking at low to medium temperatures, while refined olive oil may be used for high heat cooking such as deep frying.
igourmet offers fine quality authentic Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oils from Renieris Estate, Iliada and Terra Medi. When searching for gourmet food online, look no further than igourmet.com.
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