Is it possible for anybody to think of the Mediterranean region without olive trees? Those trees, with the silvery green leaves, give us that unique fruit which has added a superb flavor to the cuisines of the Western Civilization.
From the Greek mythology we know that Zeus conducted a competition, challenging the gods and goddesses to see who would create the most useful gift. Athena created the olive tree with its delicious oil, that was used to give comfort and meaning to life. Athena became the patron of Attica and her gift, the olive tree was planned at the Acropolis.
The victors of the ancient Olympics were crowned with an olive branch and were given olive oil in a special vessel, known as “lecithy”. The branch and oil were symbols of goodness and nobility. To this day Christian churches and Jewish synagogues are using it for their ceremonies.
It is “liquid gold”.
Extra virgin olive oil comes from the crushing of the olives, and then from the subsequent pressing of the olives, come all these different grades. In Greece, Italy and most of the Mediterranean regions, the olives are harvested in the late fall. The olives have the tendency to bruise when they fall on the ground, bruising can cause oxidation and fermentation of the fruit. This results in high acidity, effecting the quality and taste, and that is why hand picking the olives contributes to the high cost.
The Greek olive oil is fruity and complex. Nets are placed underneath the olive trees, so the olives fall on a smoother place when the branches are stripped of their fruits. Then they are Comprar aceite de oliva ecológico placed usually in wicker or stainless steel containers, that are then placed in trucks and transferred to the mill. There the olives are washed and deleafed and then crushed by gigantic stones that have been used for hundreds of years. The oil that comes from this kind of process-the first press through cold press-is known as extra virgin olive oil. The color, consistency and flavor is due to different varieties of olives, the weather and the location. A critical factor to the quality and taste is cleanliness. After each process, these stones have to be washed.
I still nostalgically remember going to the mill when I was a young girl in Sparta, in the south of Greece, bringing a loaf of peasant bread that my mother had made, and the workers in the mill, sliced it, toasted it and dipped it in the fresh, warm, green oil; then sprinkling a little sea salt on it and passing it around to all of us. Every bite was heavenly delicious.