If you’ve ever driven through the Greek countryside you have seen breathtaking vistas of endless olive groves. You have noticed, I hope, how their silver green leaves catch the sunlight and shimmer in waves as the wind rustles their branches. If you’ve ever gotten up close to an olive tree you have heard it whisper ancient secrets. You have thought to yourself as you sat beneath its abundant shade if nature could have created anything more harmonious, more perfect in shape, texture and color than the ripe olive on its branch ready for harvest.
But if you have never driven through the Greek countryside, if you have never even seen an olive tree or picnicked beneath one, then my friend your life is poorer for it and I suggest you remedy that as soon as you can.
If you haven’t figured it out already, the olive is my favorite tree of all the trees ever Ever, EVER! It is the most noble, generous, sustainable and wisest of all trees. It provides shelter, food, shade, heat, light, it shines your hair, cleans and softens your skin, helps heal your wounds, and can fill a long list of nutritional and medicinal benefits that I will get to later.
The olive tree has been considered sacred by the Greeks – ancient and modern- for thousands of years. It was the sacred tree of the goddess Athena and of the city of Athens. The olive branch is a universal sign of peace. When made into a wreath it is a trophy for olympic athletes. It was an olive branch that Noah’s dove carried in its’ mouth signifying the salvation of life on earth.
There is an olive tree that grows on the Acropolis of Athens and is known to all as the Sacred Olive Tree. Legend says that it can be traced back to the original olive tree that was planted there. Pausanias, the first ever known geographer and intrepid traveler who lived in the 2nd century AD, who is famous for “Descriptions of Greece”, a lengthy work which describes Ancient Greece in detail based on first hand observations, wrote that the day the Persians burned down the Acropolis in 480 BCE, this sacred olive tree sprouted a new branch over four feet long. Since then, that tree has met with a long procession of invaders and catastrophes but somehow a sprig was always rescued and planted later. The most recent re-planting was done by members of the American School of Archaeology in 1952 who saved and harvested a branch for the destruction to the Acropolis caused by the Nazi’s in World War II.
The Olive is truly a divine tree sent from the Gods. Nothing is ever wasted from the olive tree. The fruit is pressed for its golden oil which is consumed raw or cooked and is a staple of Mediterranean cuisine. The oil is also used for various cosmetic purposes. Even the olive pit is pressed and that oil is used for oil lamps and in the production of soaps and detergents. And finally the branches which are cut at the end of the harvest for pruning are used as firewood.
Olive oil is perhaps the most beneficial oil for use in food preparation. Greek olive oil is considered to be of superior quality and Greece is the third largest olive oil producing country worldwide after Spain and Italy.
In the following articles I will discuss how and when olive oil is harvested and pressed and what the different types of olive oil are and what they are used for, how to buy and store olive oil, how to use it, it’s health properties and benefits as well as its many medicinal and cosmetic uses.
I will talk about the different olive producing regions of Greece, and what makes each area special, where the best olive oil really comes from as well as showcase some of the best Greek olive and olive oil producing companies and how you can find them in Greece or abroad.
So stay tuned because lots and lots of good stuff is coming your way!