OLIVES IN GREECE
For the ancient Greeks and the modern Greeks, the olive tree and its oil have been one of the basic necessities of life and is the main essence of the food of Greece. In some Minoan graves, archaeologists have discovered ceramic pots containing charred olive stones which shows that they were cultivated in Greece some 3,500 years ago. The Greek poet, Homer, once described Greece’s olive oil as ‘liquid gold’ and for a long time olive groves were protected.
The country of Greece has about 143 million olive trees and is a huge exporter of olive oil.
There are many different types of olive trees that are cultivated in Greece which thrive in the Greek climate of long hot summers and mild winters with very little frost. The majority of trees yield ‘oil olives’ from which olive oil is extracted. Also, there are a great number of types which are cultivated for eating. The best types of olives for oil are usually the small dark purple colored olives.
The most famous olives and some say the tastiest olives, are those grown in the regions of Kalamata and Amphissa. However, the olives cultivated in the areas of Agrinio, Chalkidiki, Thassos and other areas are equally as good. The black Lianolia olives from Corfu are unusual in as much as they can be eaten as well as used to make olive oil.
The Kalamata olive is almond-shaped and ranges in length from about 1/2 to 1 inch. They are a dark purple color and have a rich, fruity flavor. The Amfissas, round and black, have a pleasant nutty flavor. Atalanti olives are large, luscious and fruity. Ionian olives are beautifully mild and mellow. For an extra tangy flavor try Thassos olives, salty with a wrinkled black skin. Finally, the cracked green olives are the perfect Martini olive – strong and sharp.