Greek olive oil is probably one of the most famous products from the Mediterranean Basin: for thousands of years, Greek olive oil has been a pillar of the Mediterranean lifestyle, culture, economy and of course, diet.

Greek olive oil

Since the dawn of time, the peoples inhabiting the shores of the Mediterranean Sea have sustained themselves on an apparently simple, but in reality very rich diet. This ancient diet is based on abundant plant-based foods, like fruit, vegetables, cereal-based products like bread, potatoes, beans and other legumes, nuts and seeds. All the ingredients are usually consumed fresh and in-season and they are mostly locally sourced. Dairy products, mainly cheese and yogurt, are consumed daily in modest to moderate amounts, and fish, meat and wine in low quantities. Olive oil is the main source of fat, as the majority of Mediterranean countries prefer the use of a vegetable-sourced fat, like olive oil, instead of animal-sourced fat, like butter.

A little bit of historical background

Although this type of diet has existed for thousands of years, it was not until the 1960s that it was given a name. In fact, in the 1950s, the American biologist and nutritionist Ancel Keys conducted a study on the eating habits of southern Italy in relation to the incidence of cardiovascular disease. He discovered that in Mediterranean regions where a balanced, healthy diet based mainly on the consumption of foods of vegetable origin was followed, certain pathologies were significantly reduced. Keys called this type of diet the ‘Mediterranean Diet‘, because it was typical of the populations of the Mediterranean Sea basin. This study was followed by a long series of researches on the subject by the scientific community, which confirmed and added further positive findings.

In 2010, UNESCO‘s intergovernmental committee named the Mediterranean Diet as ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity‘, specifying that this heritage belongs to Italy, Spain, Greece and Morocco.

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Greek Olive Oil in History

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One of the countries where the Mediterranean diet is most deeply rooted is certainly Greece. The cultivation of olive trees began in the Mediterranean Basin and Near East more than 6000 years ago, when the wild olive trees were domesticated, becoming one of the most important crops in Ancient Greece. The farmers were using olive trees both for the production of olives and olive oil.1

Greek olive oil is the main feature of the Greek Mediterranean diet to the extent that Greeks consume more olive oil than any other nation in the world, a massive 26 liters per person annually. Through the ages, olive oil has become synonymous with Greece and it is an integral part of almost all popular Greek dishes from Greek salad to moussaka and from tzatziki to spanakopita.

Production of Greek Olive Oil

Rich and aromatic, Greek olive oil is produced from green olives or green and black olives mixed together, resulting in different types of olive oil, like virgin or extra virgin. Its color, aroma and flavor vary and depend on several factors such as the olive variety, location and agricultural practices where the olive tree is cultivated, as well as the environmental and climatic conditions in which the tree is cultivated and grown. Important factors are also the maturity of the olive itself at the time of harvesting, plus the way in which the olive is harvested. The time delay between the harvesting of the olives up to the production of the olive oil is likewise of great significance. The stages that olives and olive oil pass through, from the production, storing the olives, pressing them to get the olive oil, and then storing it until the moment of the packaging, transporting, and storing of the bottles, also must be taken into account (read more about Virgin vs Extra Virgin olive oil here).

In short, with its extraordinary properties and qualities, Greek olive oil can be regarded as a true divine gift. And perhaps it is no coincidence that in ancient Greek mythology, the inhabitants of Athens chose Athena as the protector of their city after she gave them the olive tree.

Discover our production of high quality olive oil from Peloponnese here and our Greek olives here.

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