Sunday, November 8, 2015

all about Greek olive oil (olive oil tree, Olea europaea)

my paradise
olive oil tree
One of the oldest known trees is the olive and belongs in the family Oleaceae. Everlasting and perennial fruit tree of the Mediterranean basin, which has affected by socio-economic situations, has catalytically influenced our culture and shaped the diet and customs of the Mediterranean people. Known since ancient times, it is believed that had spread to southern Europe by Phoenicians.
The origin of the olive and its cultivation constitute an apple of controversy for scientists, as there are many theories linking the olive to different regions. The prevailing view is that, as a wild tree, wild olives originated in the eastern Mediterranean (Syria, Asia Minor, Greece), where some of the earliest cultures developed. It is also believed that the presence of olive in Greece dates back to the Neolithic Age and in this direction lead us samples of olive pollen from Crete, Peloponnese and Central Greece, while the origins of olive cultivation are chronologically placed in the Early Bronze Age (4th millennium B.C.).

Edible olives were found in a clay pot and scattered in a well, in the palace of Zakros, which leads us to the Early Minoan Crete as well as the Minoan Palace and the palace of Knossos - the placement here takes place in the Middle Minoan Period - events that reveal the distribution of olives in the major shopping centers of Crete and the rest of Greek area and the export of olives to other countries.

Since the Late Minoan Period (1500-1100 BC), the systematic cultivation of the olive tree has contributed to the socio-economic but also artistic development of Minoan civilization, something we understand from the visual depictions in vases of that time. 
Mycenaean Civilization is also connected with olive oil. The great production of Messinian land in olive trees and olive oil came from the decryption of the plates of Linear B. They were discovered in Pylos and Mycenae and from them we draw information on the spread of the trade which was the main cause of the development and promotion of olive oil worldwide, at that time.

Let's go now to the area of ​​Athens, during the period of Classical Greece. It is no coincidence that the Athenian Republic was one of the most important olive-growing centers throughout the Mediterranean. According to Greek Mythology Goddess Athena planted an olive tree on the Acropolis rock, where came from the sacred olive trees that the Athenians honored, and Zeus was the protector of these olive tree. The sacred tree of Athena is now the domesticated- cultivated olive tree, which marked the evolution of culture, socializing the exploitation of economic resources.
The olive tree was a basic nutrition element but it was also associated with religion, art, sports and ... grooming.
The athletes smeared their bodies with olive oil, while in Panathenaia, in honor of Goddess Athena, the winners received as a prize, amphoras (type of container) with olive oil, but they also wreaked with a branch of wild olives.

About body care, they used olive oil with herbs, a reference that we find in the Iliad of Homer, where Goddess Hera smears her body with herbal olive oil, while in other sources such as in the "Ecclesiastes" of Aristophanes, it is reported that the Greeks applied olive oil on their hair and women on their own clothes. Let me mention here, that Galen of Pergamon gave us his lights for the preparation of Cold Cream, the first cosmetic cream in the whole world, whose basic ingredient is the olive oil and we thank him very much because today we make creams and lotions according to his own recipe. 

Olive oil was also used as part of libation to the ancient gods- it was a means of purification - and it was an enormous offer to the gods, but it was also used in funerary ceremonies along with wine.

I must mention here, the contribution of olive oil in medicine. The Hippocratic Oath lists more than 60 therapeutic uses of olive oil, mainly related to skin diseases, but also references to the Hippocrates Diet where we can read about the properties of combining olive oil, wheat and wine. In Plutarch's "Ethics" we find olive oil as a remedy for mastitis, while references to olive oil treatments are also found in Pliny, Asklepios, Theophrastos and Dioscorides.
extra virgin olive oil- Kalamata, Greece
early harvest olive oil
I would like to present here a few things about the early harvest olive oil. Many of us have heard somewhere for it but few know what it really is.

The early harvest olive oil is olive oil that is harvested form the olive tree prematurely, and this usually happens in early November, when the fruit of the olive tree is tied well but still unripe. The olives have not yet achieved their mature size and are small and green. In this size exactly, we take the beneficial elements that make the early harvest olive oil to be the top quality of olive oil, the enfant gâté of taste.

It was very popular in antiquity. Its special, bitter, peppery and fruity taste hides the ingredients that pharmaceutical science and gastronomy seek around.

koroneiki variety
The main benefits of consuming early harvest olive oil are the high amounts of vitamins, minerals and polyphenols that protect skin cells from free radical, cancer and oxidative stress.

Scientific researchers have found that early harvest olive oil contains a high amount of substances which present high therapeutic interest such as oleasein and oleocanthal. Oleasein is now considered the strongest antioxidant component while oleocanthal is component that has been attributed to anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties.
early harvest olive oil by Stella Crown
The major fatty acid of early harvest olive oil is the oleic acid (omega-9). It also contains linoleum (omega-6), a- linolenic (omega-3) and arachidonic (omega-6) and hydrocarbons with squalene. It has a large presence of sterols (mainly b-sitosterol), alcohols and carotenoids, such as xanthophyll, carotenes and lycopene, as well as b-carotene (vitamin A). Its highly antioxidant action is due to the high presence of tocopherols, predominantly α-tocopherol (vitamin E) as well as polyphenols such as liberoin, tyrosol, hydroxytyrosol, caffeic acid, etc.

For my cosmetics and my restaurant I use only early harvest olive oil from my own olive trees and the difference is obvious comparing with the conventional ones that I was buying in previous years (before I even got my own olive trees).

According to my experience in taste, where you put early harvest olive oil, enriches  your tongue and velum with a strong flavour. We use it into salads and in all dishes you can imagine and you don’t lose the taste of olive oil in greasiness as we feel with other oils of the market. I tried to fry fishes with it. I was impressed by the marvellous taste of fried fish and I noticed that the oil remained in the pan was still green. I also saved oil because early harvest olive oil is thicker since it isn’t filtered.

Stella Crown©
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