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Monday, March 10, 2014

Olive Oil; The Essence of Crete

Do you know that the average Greek family consumes about 100 liters of olive oil per year? Luckily in Greece and especially in Crete olive oil is as plentiful as water. In fact, every authentic Greek recipe involves the use of lots of the ‘golden green.’

Nothing is more characteristic of Crete than the hundreds of olive trees which are present everywhere, from deep in the valleys to the rockiest mountain tops. The olive tree is one of very few that can produce fruits even in rocky and dry fields and its main characteristic is its long life and productivity.

Olive trees have been growing in Crete since at least 3500 BC. The Minoan people were the first to start using and exporting olives and the oil. Today Crete’s high quality oil has a distinctive aroma, fruity taste, has a luscious golden color and is internationally recognized for its health benefits.

Winter is the busiest season for olive growers. A lot of work goes into the preparation for the harvest. In fact the harvest has many traditions and a long history that passes from generation to generation. The process of gathering the olives is hard work and everyone in the family gets involved, from the grandmother to young children, as well as friends and people hired locally. Today growers can get some extra help from special mechanic equipment. However they have to be carefully monitored to ensure the fruit isn’t damaged and the quality of oil is unaffected. They are collected in sacks and then are transported to the olive press where after an elaborate process the olive oil produced. All this has to be done in a very short time after the gathering, sometimes even the same day to ensure the quality of the oil is at its best.

The Cretan menu is considered to be one of the healthiest in the world. This is certainly thanks to the delicious olive oils that are produced locally and used in almost every recipe. Olive oil is widely recognized as a healthy boost to any diet and scientist say that a daily consumption of 25-30grams of olive oil per day can protect the heart and offer a natural defensive mechanism to many diseases.

So, tasting traditional recipes in Alana Restaurant, prepared with Cretan olive oil, is not only a gastronomic experience but also leads to a longer healthier life.

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