WHAT DID THE GREEKS GIVE US?


“I am daughter of the sun...I am the olive tree, the blessed one." K. Palamas.


The olive tree is inevitably linked with Greek history, culture and life, as is olive oil, the product of its fruit. Greeks have always considered the olive tree and its fruit as a gift from the gods. Homer referred to olive oil as "liquid gold."


Since ancient times, olive oil has been a central feature of Greek life. The origins of the olive tree cultivation are lost in prehistory. Special urns and storage pits unearthed among the ruins of Knossos in Crete indicate that in 2000 B.C. the ancient people of the region utilized olive oil and olives pretty much the same way as their descendants do today. Greek mythology presents it as a sacred tree blessed by Athena, the ancient Greek goddess of wisdom.


Among Aristotle’s works, the “Antenaeon Politeia” also illustrates the importance of olive oil in ancient Greek life. For the ancient Greeks, the olive tree represented, among other things, power and peace: power because of its longevity and its ability to flourish on the most barren terrain and peace because of its solitary tranquility. For this reason, the winners of the ancient Olympic Games, who represented the same ideals of strength and peace, were awarded a wreath made from a branch of wild olive.


Today Greece is the world\'s most important exporter of superior olive oil. The love and high esteem of the Greek olive grower for the olive tree is passed on from generation to generation and from family to family. With the birth of a child an olive tree is planted which will grow and develop along with the child. When the child starts school at the age of six, the olive tree is ready to produce its fruit. The blessed tree grows up with the family, only it will have a much longer life and will still be around to be tended by the next generation, and the one after that. Each year, it yields its annual crop of olives in return for the labor and love expended on it.


Those interested in healthy living have rediscovered olive oil. In recent decades the medical value of pure olive oil has once again come to the foreground. Modern medicine admires the scientific expertise of ancient medical practices. Today’s doctors and dieticians are drawing our attention to the need to include olive oil in our daily diets, not only as a basic nutritional food, but also for preventive and therapeutic purposes. The physical properties of olive oil make it the most suitable edible oil, easily absorbed by the body, with beneficial effects on the stomach. Research has demonstrated that, in addition to its nutritional value, olive oil is an invaluable factor for general maintenance of the human being. For example, because of the monounsaturated oleic acid it contains, it controls the cholesterol in the blood by improving the level of the lipoprotein HDL, and as a result the metabolism of cholesterol, which is a major factor in heart disease, thus it has an effective means in the prevention of cardiovascular disease.


A current result of medical studies not only reflect how helpful olive oil can be for people with medical problems such as high cholesterol, but also helps people with poor metabolism, obesity, and breast cancer. It is useful in combating liver problems and is a natural remedy for constipation and gall bladder ailments. Recent research has proved that olive oil inhibits the formation of gallstones.


It took olive oil 3,000 years to become the subject of scientific inquiry. In the meantime, the Mediterranean people have been enjoying its benefits and taste. Along with vegetables, legumes, fresh fruits, nuts and whole grain products, and modest quantities of dairy products, fish, and poultry, olive oil has contributed to a dietary combination that meets health criteria as defined by science today.


From ancient Greek time until today a large number of incentives was given to individual producers, thus today’s Greece produces about 300,000 tons per year and despite its small size, possesses the third position among olive oil producers in the world using the most advanced methods and the most sophisticated technologies. But this position is fictitious taking in the