Well, as you can imagine, Greeks have many things to be proud of, from a rich history, the beauty of their country, the complexity of their language or simply their delicious cuisine, to name a few. And you guessed it, pinpointing a specific thing is a bit of Herculean task, but if we had to choose only one, it would be olive oil.
More than any other product sourced in Greece, olive oil is synonymous with Greek tradition and culture. The Greeks have a long tradition of olive growing, and during antiquity, the olive tree was considered to be sacred. Appearing in a dozen legends and myths, such as the gift of goddess Athena to the city of Athens, the olive tree is thought to be a symbol of peace and victory, hence the olive wreath awarded to the winner of the Olympic Games, as well as a symbol of divine protection. With deep roots into the Greek soil, the olive tree also has roots in the nation’s soul.
Olive oil is a multi-purpose item, it can be used for cooking, in medicine, in cosmetics and much more, so is not surprising that Homer called olive oil ‘liquid gold’. As such, in a country where there is the highest number of olives, the Greeks have studied the properties of the fruit in depth.
Today, Greece is the leading country in the production of extra virgin olive oil, which is one of the purest and the highest quality oils there is, and while it is the third producer in Europe, behind Spain and Italy, Greece is the first country in the world when it comes to the production of black olives. To give you a better idea, Greece spends more than 60% of farmland in olive cultivation, and consumption is at 18 kg per person, while in Crete, it rises up to 30 kg!
Omnipresent in every Greek’s kitchen, it is definitely a staple and one of the main reasons why the Mediterranean diet is gaining popularity beyond its border. So the next time you are in Greece, make sure to take some extra virgin olive oil back with you for yourself and your loved ones.