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Olive oil The “gold” of Crete AS VALUABLE AS HEALTH

Cretans identify themselves with the olive and its olive oil

History Olives are presented on Minoan frescos, olive trees, branches and fruits on Cretan prehistoric potteries and pips of olives have been found in archaeological excavations. The Cretan landscape is defined by the olive tree. Archaeological evidence confirms what everybody knows: Cretans identify themselves with the olive and its oil. Cretans know everything about it, since they have been cultivating olive trees for more than 4.000 years. According to experts: “Cretan villagers must be proud to have converted the wild olive trees into cultivable trees” (Paul Faure). Crete has a great historical heritage. From the time people started writing words, Cretans knew how to write the words, ‘olive” and “olive oil”.

They knew how to harvest olives, grind them mechanically and take their valuable juice, store and use it. They made perfumes from it, they widely exported it and they offered some to gods. Since then, the gastronomy of the island is totally bounded with olive oil.

Landscape Today more than 30.000.000 olive trees are being cultivated. Cretan forests are consisted of olive groves. The harmony of colors and human interventions create a unique landscape. There are olive trees more than 2.000 years old. This blessed tree of the Mediterranean Basin never dies. The olive trees of Crete grow together with the ancient columns transforming the olivary landscape into a site of natural and cultural balance. These olive trees are still productive, even though nowadays the majority of olive oil is produced from younger trees grown with systematic cultivations.

Experience Olive trees bloom in the spring and the silvergreen site transforms. The fruits make their appearance at the beginning of the summer and the harvest starts at autumn. From the very first days of November and for 2-3 months, a large part of the Cretan population is occupied with harvesting. The olives are collected with mechanical means and are transferred everyday to olive oil press factories. The cultivation techniques

ensure low acidity so as not to denature the physical characteristics of the product. People know well the olive tree and the way to produce olive oil of the highest quality. Let’s not forget that the cultivation of olive trees in Crete is a tradition that lasts for more than 4.000 years. This experience is inherited from one generation to another as a valuable trust, being at the same time enriched with the modern scientific knowledge.

Climate and soil Sun, light, mild winter and cool summer. These are the basic characteristics of Cretan climate. The landscape is a typical example of Mediterranean landscape with xerothermic characteristics that add a very intense taste to goods. Seas, coastlines, mountains, small plains and hills with slight inclinations, wooded by olive trees and vineyards; an ideal site for the olive tree that yields fruits nearly on the entire island without particular problems. The view of changing cultivations on smooth hillsides that do not retain humidity is amazing every time of the year. The dominant variety of olives being cultivated in Crete is the small-sized or coronian olive that produces high quality olive oil, with mild aroma, fine taste and bright color from goldish-green to goldish-yellow, according to the maturation of the fruit. The differences in color don’t result in differences in the quality, but they rather fulfill consumers’ different preferences in taste. We also meet cultivations of different varieties, such as the medium-sized “tsounati”, but in limited amounts.

The cultivation of olive trees in Crete starts 4.000 years ago!

Olive oil 90% of the olive oil produced in Crete is extra virgin. This quality is preserved by the natural juice of the olive that is harvested and processed with mechanical means, without any chemical interventions, in modern establishments. A large quantity of the olive oil that is produced in Crete is bottled by modern standardization units that conform to every quality criteria, ensuring that the end consumer enjoys the same quality of olive oil exactly such the producer himself.

It is ideal for cooking. It adds flavor and aroma in food along with its globally known healthy character. It can replace in almost every application the use of animal fats that according to modern medical research are considered particularly damaging for human health. In Crete, olive oil is the only fatty substance of diet and cooking, used even in pastry.

Natural characteristics Low acidity (lower than 0,5), rich natural aroma and particular flavor are the basic characteristics of Cretan olive oil. These aromatic and flavor characteristics place the olive oil at the top of the quality pyramid in global level, as demonstrated by the important awards it receives in international competitions and tastings. Apart from these characteristics that are almost common for the entire island, there are differences basically due to local microclimates that provide an impressive diversity to olive oil, capable of fulfilling even the

most demanding taste of the consumers. IMPORTANT NOTE: Except for the low acidity that defines Cretan olive oil as a whole, we should know that it cannot be replaced by any other fatty substance, because it includes a large number of valuable compounds, such as antioxidants, that protect human health from a series of diseases.

Biological cultivations Even though the product that is produced with conventional techniques is free from any form of aggravation, recently more and more producers turn to biological cultivation knowing that this method is as easy as the rest, taking under consideration the environmental and climate conditions of the island. However, the biological Cretan oil constitutes another important step towards the continuous improvement of cultivation conditions and the protection of natural environment.

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Cretan Diet According to every international medical study, Cretan people following the traditional Cretan diet model are not threatened by cardiovascular diseases, they live more and they enjoy a healthy life. Although many refer to the Mediterranean diet, we keep using the term “Cretan diet” knowing that this term is scientifically correct and proved in practice. The table with the results of the famous “Seven Countries Study”, as well as the statistical data of the World Health Organization (WHO), constitutes a useful lesson to the people of the 21st century. For us, it is a valuable heritage and a life experience that we owe to diffuse all around the world.

The “Seven Countries Study”, conducted by Angel Keys at the end of 1950’ impressed the international scientific community. Cretans, whose food would “swim” in olive oil, proved to have the best health level globally. Neoplasm vases were rare, fewer than in other studied region, probably fewer than in any part of the world, and the cardiovascular diseases (a true blight for the people of the North) were quite unknown in Crete. Keys had concluded that Cretan people consumed extensive quantities of olive oil, wondering: “Oh God, how much olive oil do they eat?”

The most olive oil in the world! Vegetables, fruits, cereals, fish and some meat comprise the daily diet of Cretan people. However, the traditional Cretan diet does not include animal fat or seed oil. It only includes extra virgin olive oil, raw or cooked, which is used exclusively in nutrition. From the beginning till the end of a meal, olive oil is present. According to International Organizations’ data, the average olive oil consumption per person in Crete is 35 liters per year, a multiple quantity comparing to the consumption in other Mediterranean regions.

Olive oil and Gastronomy

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Together with the Cretan Diet, people of the 21st century discovered the Cretan Gastronomy and the island’s traditional cuisine, which is a treasure of health and flavor. Creation of simple folk people, it combines the accumulated experience gained through centuries, the popular wisdom, the inventiveness and a variety of local products. Meanwhile, Cretan cuisine is simply a way of cooking with pure natural products, in tasty combinations, using exclusively olive oil. Even though Cretan gastronomy has plenty secrets that require thorough study, we all know one of her most basic rules: extra virgin olive oil.

Health secret It is common place that olive oil constitutes a protective shield for our health starting from heart diseases and cancer to diabetes, as well as metabolic and other diseases. The most interesting is that more and more evidence prove that olive oil is an ideal food for human beings. Consuming olive oil, rather than other fats or oils, decreases the LDL cholesterol in blood, without decreasing HDL (non damaging cholesterol). And at the same time it reduces the amount of triglycerides in blood. The concentration of cholesterol and triglycerides in blood may contribute to the obstruction of arteries that transfer oxygen to the brain and heart muscle. In general, olive oil protects from heart diseases, while numerous recent studies show that it reduces systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Other studies prove that consuming olive oil, can decelerate the progress of breast cancer or even other forms of cancer. A balanced diet with olive oil and vegetables can reduce the possibility of cancer up to 75%.

Cooking with olive oil Recipes Aubergine salad 1 kg aubergines 2 garlic bulbs, pasted or 1 onion, grated salt, pepper 1 teaspoon oregano ½ cup olive oil 3 tablespoon lemon juice 1 tablespoon vinegar 2 tablespoon nuts 2 tablespoon parsley, ďŹ nely chopped Wash the aubergines and grill them wrapped in cooking foil until they get softer. When they are cooler, peel them and take out as many seeds as you can. Put the aubergines in the blender and, while stirring, add the garlic or onion, the lemon, the vinegar and the olive oil. When the mixture becomes creamy, put it into a bowl and mix it with the nuts and the parsley. Decorate with some olives and caper. Optionally, you can also grill 3-4 peppers together with the aubergines, paste and add in the salad.

Cretan rusk (dakos) The rusk that is usually used is in round shape and it is made of barley or mixed our. Dakos is a very famous appetizer in Crete, which recently has become well known in other green regions as well. 1 barley rusk (in round shape) 1 tomato 2 tablespoons olive oil Salt, oregano 3 tablespoons feta cheese or sour myzithra cheese Slightly soak the rusk and put it on a plate. Grate or chop in small pieces the tomato and put it on top of the rusk. Pour olive oil, salt, oregano and the crumbled feta cheese or myzithra. Serve it as it is or cut into pieces.

Greek salad 2 tomatoes 2 cucumbers some glistrida some parsley 1 pepper, 1 tablespoon caper 5 – 6 black olives ½ teaspoon salt 100 gr feta cheese, 1 teaspoon oregano 4 – 5 tablespoon olive oil 1 tablespoon vinegar Wash the tomatoes, the cucumber, the parsley, and the glistrida. Cut them into pieces and place the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Add the caper the onion and the olives. Pour salt, olive oil, oregano and vinegar and toss gently. At the end, add the feta cheese. You can also put some pieces of rusk at the bottom of the bowl.

Palikaria or polisporia Palikaria is a traditional dish, that is well – known all around Greece. In the past, Greeks prepared it in special occasions (celebration of Madonna on 21/11 and St. Andrea on 30/11). Farmers believed that with this food, they would increase the productivity of grains. This dish contains a number of pulses. You can either add or remove something, although wheat is necessary. 100 gr wheat 100 gr chickpeas 100 gr peas 100 gr beans 100 gr broad beans 100 gr lentils salt, pepper

To serve: Onion, dill, olive oil, lemon juice Soak the pulses from the night before. It’s better to soak each type separately. Boil the wheat together with the chickpeas for half an hour. Add the rest of the pulses and boil until they are cooked. Pour salt and pepper and serve either as a soup or as a salad with olive oil, lemon juice, onion and dill, at will.

Anchovy or sardines in olive oil 1 kg anchovies or sardines 1 tablespoon salt ½ cup lemon juice 1 cup olive oil 2 garlic bulbs 3 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped Wash the fish, remove the heads and the intestines and place it in a bowl covered with salt and lemon. The anchovy is left in marinate for 10 hours and the sardines for 24 to 30 hours, depending on their size. Try to pull out the tail together with the spine and if the inside is rather white than reddish, then the fish is ready. Cut them into fillets or leave them as they are. Place the fish in a bowl or a glass pot and cover with olive oil. Season with garlic and parsley. The fish is conserved in the refrigerator for several days.

Zucchini omelet 1 kg zucchini, sliced 5 – 6 tablespoons olive oil 6 eggs, ½ cup grated cheese, Salt, pepper 2 tablespoons mint, finely chopped Fry the zucchini until they are browned and tender. Whip the eggs with the rest of the ingredients and pour over the zucchini. Cook for 2 minutes and turn upside down to brown the omelet from the other side as well.

Roast potatoes with olive oil and oregano 1,5 kg potatoes ½ cup olive oil Salt, pepper, oregano Lemon juice Peel off the potatoes, cut them into oblong or round shape and put them in a roasting pan. Season with salt, pepper and oregano; pour the olive oil, the lemon and 1 glass of water. Roast in high temperature at the beginning, and then lower the temperature.

Fried eggs with tomato 3 tablespoons olive oil 1 onion, chopped 1 pepper, chopped 2 tomatoes, chopped Salt, pepper, 2 eggs Warm some olive oil in the pan and fry the onion and the pepper till they get soft. Add the tomato, salt and pepper and stir gently till the sauce is set. Add the eggs on the tomatoes (sunny side up) and cook for a few minutes, at will.

Roast pies with herbs For the pastry: ½ glass of water ½ cup milk or yoghurt 5 tablespoons olive oil 1 teaspoon salt flour (1/2 kg)

For the filling: 1 kg of herds (spinach, seskoula, kafkalithres, tsoxous, lapatha etc) 4 tablespoons olive oil 1 onion, finely chopped or 5 fresh onions, finely chopped 1 leek, finely chopped Some parsley, dill, mint finely chopped ½ cup kefalotiri cheese grated or feta cheese, salt, pepper

Preparation of the pastry: In a large bowl put the flour, make a hole in the middle and pour the olive oil, water, milk or yoghurt and some salt. Knead slowly until you get a tight, floppy dough. Add extra water or flower if necessary. Put aside the dough for an hour to rest.

Preparation of the filling: Wash the herbs and finely chop them. Heat some olive oil in a pot and roast the onion and the leek until they soften, add the rest of the herbs, cover the pot and cook it for 2-3 minutes. Add some salt and pepper. When cooler, add some cheese to the mixture. (We can avoid the cheese at will or we can also add an egg). Divide the dough into smaller pieces and roll out pastries 2-3 mm thick. Cut into little round pastries almost at the size of a coffee plate or bigger.

Put 1 tablespoon filling in the middle and fold in the middle. Push the edges of the pie to stick together and spread with olive oil or the white of an egg; bake in pre – heated oven for almost half an hour until they are browned.

Mizithra pies ½ kg mizithra (soft unsalted cheese) 1 egg, 2 tablespoons olive oil 4 tablespoons sugar 1 teaspoon lemon zest or 2 tablespoons mint finely chopped 1 water glass grated rusk or semolina

For the breadcrumb: 2 eggs, 3 tablespoons milk 1 cup flour 1 cup olive oil for frying sugar or honey or molasses and cinnamon for serving Knead the mizithra with the egg, the olive oil, the sugar, the lemon zest or the mint and the grated rusk. Whip up the egg with the milk. With a spoon, take some filling, make little balls and push gently in the middle to get wider. Dip into the egg mixture, flour, and fry them until both sides turn brown. Sprinkle the pies with sugar and cinnamon or honey/molasses and cinnamon.

Olive oil pie 1 cup olive oil 1,5 cup sugar 6 eggs, 3 vanillas juice and zest of 2 oranges ½ cup milk or yoghurt ½ kg cake flour Mix the olive oil with the sugar, adding the yolks, the vanilla, the orange juice and orange zest, the milk, the flour and finally the white of the eggs in meringue. Continue mixing gently to integrate the ingredients and pour into a buttered pan No 30. Bake at the medium pre-heated oven for almost 50 minutes.







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