Crete Trading – Olive Oil » Blog

East Crete

This section is about the island, its people and why you should come here and explore. We’re a very proud and passionate people who have only been part of Greece since 1913. Our island is a spectacular contrast of high mountains, fertile plains and valleys and stunning beaches and villages. Its a great place to visit if you want a beach holiday, great for walkers in the spring and autumn, wonderful for artists with subjects everywhere and that special light. If you’re into archaeology or bird watching there’s plenty to see. Its a big island, about 150 miles from east to west and around 50 miles from north to south at the widest point; the air is clean and pure and the food is the healthiest in the world.

We’ll add and expand this part of the site with some interesting and useful links for you to wander off on. Our company is a Cretan/Brit family affair and we have a big army of friends and relations to help us find some quirky and diverse topics to include here.

For example, we have a passionate and caring cat and dog rescue charity in East Crete who are always looking for homes for their inmates. If you or a friend can help re-home a cat or dog, no matter where you live, then please visit www.hectorshousecrete.org; I have 4 dogs and 6 cats, all rescued, so its over to you!!

The Cretans are very like the Brits in some ways. For a start we’ve been invaded repeatedly since men first began sailing around the Mediterranean Sea and we’re used to defending our island. That’s why we’re Cretan first and Greek second; fiercely independent people but exceptionally friendly, generous and welcoming to strangers who come in peace.

As a holiday destination Crete is not as busy as the 80’s which is good for visitors as the beaches and places to visit aren’t too crowded. Prices are still reasonable despite all the bad press Greece’s economic situation has had and things like car hire are surprisingly cheap.

Cretan cooking is very healthy and different, seek out those tavernas specialising in local dishes and you’ll enjoy some new taste experiences. We eat a lot of wild plants, described as ‘horta’, so look out for these and always ask what’s cooking as there will be the odd dish which isn’t on the menu. Central to our diet is, of course, extra virgin olive oil. Most families on the island have olive trees and the winter months will bring them all together to pick the olives and prune the trees. They’ll have the olives pressed at the village co-operative run pressing station, keep whatever oil they need for the year and sell the rest.

They use the oil for all their cooking and its bursting with health benefits which you can study at your leisure on other websites like the EU www.europa.eu and www.whfoods.org

The olive tree has been cultivated on Crete for certain from the Middle Minoan period (2100 – 1560 BC) and probably also in the Early Minoan period (2800 – 2100 BC). The tree was of great importance to the growers as they ate its fruit and oil, used the oil for anointing and as a base for perfumes for the care of the body, in athletics, in the laying-out of the dead, as a lubricant for tools, as a fuel for everyday lighting, as a pure product for offerings and in sacred oils, in medicine and in magic. The wood was also used in heating, in carpentry and in industry in the form of charcoal. Fossilised olive leaves have been found on the island of Santorini, to the north of Crete, estimated to be 50 or 60,000 years old. This long association with the tree means that the skills needed to tend and care for it and to produce the very best quality oil from it have been carefully honed and practiced over the centuries. Careful pruning keeps the trees healthy and the fruit disease-free, the olives are picked when just ripe, they produce less oil then but the quality of it is higher. They are transported in hessian sacks which allow the fruit to breath and processed quickly after picking when still firm and fresh.

Remember that Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a fat, although a healthier one than most, and is just one part of the Mediterranean diet. You have to look at the food in Crete as a whole to understand the health benefits and where it fits in; it’s basically a peasant diet which uses all the seasonal fruits, nuts, vegetables and plants, both wild and cultivated, which are available throughout the year. Add to this fish, occasional red meat, chicken, snails, rabbit, goat and sheep’s cheese, pulses, honey and simple breads and rusks and you have the core of it. Replicating this diet in the UK would be like stepping back 300 years and living in the countryside where you grew all your own food crops, kept your own animals and foraged in the woods and fields for wild plants.

To be continued……