Olive oil

The benefits of extra virgin olive oil

The focal point of many medical studies carried out until today has been the extensive olive oil consumption – and in particular, the consumption of extra virgin olive oil alone! In other words, the consumption of the natural juice of olives, which contains not only oleic acid (olive oil’s main ingredient) but also a large range of other substances, nowadays considered valuable for our health.

The refined or processed olive oil is quite different, since it is produced by chemical and industrial processing destroying many beneficial substances.

When buying olive oil, it is very important to take a closer look at the label: it has to say “extra virgin olive oil”. This is the Cretans most valuable ally for good health and longevity!

Olive oil has a beneficial effect on our health!

It lowers the LDL cholesterol and the presence of triglycerides in the blood and protects against cardiovascular diseases.

It lowers blood pressure, both systolic and diastolic, decreasing thus the risk of strokes.

It also has an antioxidant effect and protects against cancer. It helps the liver function, while when combined with the consumption of vegetables it protects against gastrointestinal cancer and is ideal for the dietary needs of people suffering from diabetes.

Newly published studies explicitly express the high value of olive oil and its contribution to maintaining one’s health.

The Cretan olive oil, a long story…

The olive tree has always been connected to the Mediterranean region. According to archaeological and historical studies, the olive tree belongs to the indigenous flora of the Mediterranean countries and researchers verify its existence in the area since at least 5,000 years ago.

One can safely assume that the first olive trees were not part of the cultivated flora of the region. They were wild trees, known today under the name “wild olives” and can still be traced in some regions of the Mediterranean, including Crete.

The archaeological findings confirm that the first important civilization of the island, the Minoan Civilization, not only based its economy on agricultural production, but had also extended commercial relations with other regions of the Eastern Mediterranean, exchanging agricultural products. One of the most significant products produced at the time was the olive oil.

In general, it has been proven that the cultivation and processing of the olives has been one of the major occupations of the local people, even since the Minoan period. The proof: findings of crushed olive seeds, lamps with traces of olive oil and clay vessels for its storage.

However, olives and olive oil were not only a means of survival and financial exchanges for the Cretans. They were used, apart from nutrition, in many cultural and religious ways, highlighting thus the importance of the plant and its products in everyday life and in the culture of the island. One such case was the use of olive products in the worship of the Minoan gods and goddesses. Likewise, the olive fruit was used for attending and caring of the dead.

In many occasions, olives were found next to the dead in Minoan graves, accompanying them to the next life. Combining the devotional nature of the plant with their artistry, the Minoans have left behind a heritage of unique murals depicting the holy tree on its own or next to symbols of worship (Psilakis – Kastanas: 2003).

The Cretan olive oil today

Nowadays, over 35,000,000 olive trees are being cultivated in Crete, fully covering not only the local population’s needs, but also being exported in large quantities abroad. The Cretans are fully accustomed to consuming olive oil, even when making the traditional Cretan family sweets, where no form of butter or refined oil is ever being used. They use exclusively olive oil.

Studies have shown that the olive oil withstands high temperatures more than any other oil: it is not oxidized and remains healthy. The same oil can be used for frying 5-6 times.

The Cretan olive oil is of high quality almost in its totality. Approximately, 90% of the production is natural olive juice extracted with simple natural or mechanical methods, with no chemical or other treatment, since the Cretan olive oil has no need for any treatment at all …

The residents of Crete consume the largest quantities of olive oil in the world!

Our region’s olive oil and its advantages!

Olive oil produced in the region of Temenos and also in the wider area of Peza, next to the city of Heraklion, holds a top position in regards to quality, like all Cretan olive oils. The product has a sweet taste, a particularly attractive colour (yellow-golden) and offers a sense of fruity taste during its consumption.

The quality criteria of the region’s extra virgin oil (Acidity, Κ 270, Κ 232, Delta K, Peroxides Value) stand at a very good level in comparison to the trade standard of the international olive council.

This is due to the olives harvesting and processing method. Harvesting the olive fruit by pole beating, collecting quantities not exceeding 50 kilos in bags, immediate transport (usually the same day) to the oil mill and rapid pressing, result in all of the above characteristics.

Also, the levels of trilinolein and stigmatosterol are especially low. This is due to the small-sized fruit of the “Koroneiki” olive variety.

Finally, only very small amounts of aliphatic alcohols are found in the produced olive oil. This is due to the fact that the producers know that high temperatures during pressing the olive will raise the percentage of aliphatic alcohols in the oil, so they themselves monitor the oil’s production temperature in the olive mill so as not to exceed 32 °C (the usual production temperature for the olive oil is 27-32 °C).

The key factors which differentiate the quality of olive oil are the climate, the composition of the soil, the variety of the trees and the human cultivation interventions (the method of cultivating, harvesting, storing and processing the produce).

The factors contributing to the excellent quality of the olive fruit and the characteristics of the produced oil are:

The region’s ideal climate for olive production with mild winters and warm summers,

The range of temperatures which are considered ideal for olive cultivation, in regards to the lowest, the highest and the average temperature,

The mild wind intensity which ensures a problem-free budding cycle,

The terrain which facilitates good aeration and plenty of light for the trees, resulting in healthy plants and good quality olives,

The rainfall distribution, mainly during the winter, and the small amount of rainfalls, once the temperature rises, ensure that the nutrients are assimilated at the proper period of time and discourage the development of fungal diseases which undermine the quality of the olives,

The amount of rainfall in the whole region which is judged satisfactory for absorbing nutrients from the ground as well as for the olive groves which are not irrigated,

The good levels of organic matter usually ensure good assimilability of nutrients, good porous soil with good air and water circulation and subsequently good proliferation of the root system of the olive tree,

The satisfactory concentrations of potassium and phosphate in the ground and the producers’ know-how for supplementing with nitrogen and boron, per case, influence the quality of the olive oil produced, as far as the chemical and organoleptic characteristics are concerned.