By Lisa Radinovsky from Greek Liquid Gold.
Olive oil has been a fundamental product in Greece since ancient times. This liquid gold (as Homer called it) has remained central to Greek cuisine, culture, economy, and history for millennia. Today, home cooks, chefs, foodies, and olive oil judges across the globe value Greek olive oil for both its exquisite flavor and its significant health benefits.
Greek olive oil “is widely regarded as one of the best olive oils in the world for its taste, quality, and health benefits,” confirms Alexis Perdikakis of Renieris olive oil company, and many others agree. As Perdikakis adds, “olive oil from Greece is rich in antioxidants such as oleocanthal, squalene, and lignans, which can help protect against cellular damage, oxidative stress, and cancer. So if you are looking for a high-quality, nutritious, and delicious oil, you may want to consider buying Greek olive oil. It is widely available online and in specialty stores. You can use it for cooking, baking, dressing salads, dipping bread, or drizzling over pasta.”
Georgia Bouzala of Elettra points out that Greece produces the third largest quantity of olive oil in the world in an average year, and “in my opinion the first in quality. Almost all regions of the country produce excellent high quality olive oil.” Greeks have had plenty of time to perfect their cultivation and production methods. As Dimitrios Mourlas of G-Team – Hypereleon explains, the olive tree and its cultivation have been “an integral part of everyday life and culture in Greece, from antiquity until today.”
Olive oil “is probably one of the oldest and most important products of Greece, dating back to Neolithic times,” says Perdikakis. “It is definitely a symbol of Greek tradition, as it is an essential part of the Greek diet, cuisine, and lifestyle. It is also used for religious ceremonies, cosmetics, medicine, and lighting. Olive oil is a major economic asset for Greece, as it contributes to the country’s agricultural income, exports, and employment. It also supports rural development and environmental protection.”
More than olive oil sales is behind this support and protection. As Alexis Karabelas of A.M.G. Karabelas P.C. and The Olive Temple testifies, “olive tourism flourishes and diversifies our tourism product, and this is for the best! Tourism is no longer just about our islands and the sea, but also about mainland Greece, the high-quality products it has to offer, and gastronomy tourism,” attracting visitors and providing employment in many parts of the country throughout the year.
Giovanni Bianchi, who identifies himself as “an Italian in love with Greece who has chosen to produce oil in Greece” (Argali olive oil), offers a unique perspective on the situation in this country. “What makes an olive oil good is the attention to the processing and the care for every detail, not its nationality.” Even so, Bianchi adds, there are “some peculiarities that make Greek olive oil special. Depending on the variety, we range from the richness of polyphenols to the gustatory peculiarities, from “heroic” cultivation done on terraces vehicles cannot reach, to semi-intensive experimentation. The Greek panorama is very varied, and many families live thanks to olive growing.”
In fact, olive trees are so important to Greece that the Nobel-prize winning Greek poet Odysseus Elytis wrote in one of his poems, “If you deconstruct Greece, at the end you will see that you are left with an olive tree, a vineyard and a boat.”
In addition to a long tradition of olive cultivation, Greeks have recently benefited from increasing knowledge about the best cultivation, production, transportation, and storage practices, as well as scientific and technological advances. The result is wider recognition of the superb taste and nutritious value of Greek olive oil.
“Since 2019, Greek olive oil has increased its presence in the top level of awards in a variety of international competitions,” thus extending awareness of its excellent quality, according to Eleftheria Germanaki, international olive oil competition judge and director and panel supervisor at the Sensory Evaluation Laboratory of Crete.
Growing numbers of Greek olive oil producers are dedicating themselves to the hard work and attention to detail required to create superior products. That makes it an ideal time to explore the many options for impressive extra virgin olive oils and flavoured olive oils made from Greek olives and bottled under Greek brands.
*Originally published on Greek Liquid Gold: Authentic Extra Virgin Olive Oil (greekliquidgold.com). See that site for recipes with olive oil, photos from Greece, agrotourism and food tourism suggestions, and olive oil news and information.