The cultivation of the olive tree first started in Greece and its uninterrupted presence in the Greek land is the connection with the traditions, the customs and the Greek culture. It is a distinct and an exquisite component of Greece.
The Greek land is full of olive orchards. The olive tree is the President of the Greek nature and history, and olive oil is the President of the Greek diet. The cultivation started in the prehistoric era and fossilized olive trees over 50,000 years old were found in the volcanic rocks of the island of Santorini.
Olive oil has held a prominent position in the Mycenaean, Minoan and generally the Greek economy and society. Olive oil was used for financial gains, offered to the gods and the dead, was used for food, the production of perfumes and beauty products, to light the lamp, heat the home and heal the sick.
In Greece the olive tree has been praised by the early poets, indicating its origin and its preference for alkaline soils (high in pH), thriving on the limestone slopes of the Greek coasts and Greek islands.
The olive trees grow slowly and when natural development is allowed, its trunk acquires a significant diameter. When the branches are not disturbed by the pruning knife and water is supplied to ensure the crop, the tree produces abundantly. When the olive tree is cultivated in Peloponese, Crete and all over Greece, is planted in rows with certain distance between the trees, depending on the variety. Professional pruning is done to preserve the fruit bearing branches and keep the top low, to allow easy picking of the olives. The spaces between the trees are fertilized with manure.
Olive oil making.
The olives when ripe, sometimes are picked by hand, or beaten down by poles, or by shaking the branches and collected in nets, placed in baskets and are taken to the mill, where they are cleaned and washed to remove twigs, leaves and dirt.
Grinding the olives to become paste with stone rollers or other mechanical equipment.
For higher olive oil yield, mixing for about 30 minutes is required, to allow small oil droplets to mix with bigger ones.
A press is used for the separation of oil and water from the fruit.
Then the separation of the oil from the water takes place.
Storing the olive oil in stainless steel containers and in a dark, cool place, prevents oxidation and rancidity.
Olive oil is graded by its acidity and flavor. The lower the acidity, the better the quality.
In Greece the olive oil accompanies every dish and dominates the kitchen.