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Stavros Villas





OLIVES - TREES - SPECIES - HARVEST - OIL - PRODUCTS - RECIPES
OLIVE TREE
Although the origins of the olive tree are not exactly known, Crete and the southeast Mediterranean are taken to be their natural habitat.
With its shimmering silver/green leaves, the olive tree covers an area of 396 thousand acres. The number of trees is estimated to be 30 million, but this number grows through yearly cultivation. Because the olive tree is not very demanding and grows in hard or stony ground, one can come across it at various heights above sea level.
An olive tree needs about 5 - 7 years before it bears fruit, can live to be more than 600 years old and produces ca. 5 - 10 kilos of oil depending on the size, species, age and the frequency of watering.

SPECIES OF OLIVES
By and large there are more than 70 species of olives.
On Crete there are several different types of olive from which oil is mainly extracted. The following types are the three most important.
Koronaiki (Mastoides). This genus can produce over 125 kilos per tree and is found mainly in the areas of Chania, Iraklion and Lassithi. The oil is aromatic.
Throumolia / Chontrolia (Media oblonga). This can be found up to a height of 730 m above sea level and produces a mild oil, which has a high rating with the Cretans.
Tsounati (Mamilaris). The Tsounati is to be found mainly in the area of Chania. It is resistant to heat and cold and the oil is of excellent quality.




OLIVE HARVEST
The harvest usually begins in November and lasts until March. Many visitors to the island believe that the olives are picked by hand, but this is only true of certain types, which are not necessarily used for oil. In the past the trees were beaten with wooden poles. This method is still used today even though nearly every family owns a machine. This consists of a long pole with prongs on the top and which is connected to a motor. This makes the harvesting very much easier but it will always remain a time consuming process. Sharing of the work is usually the same and as family unity is held in high esteem every member takes part. The women see that the first nets are laid out under the trees so that the men can start to work with the machines. The collecting of the olives is again womens work. They free the olives from the roughest leaves before they are packed in sacks and are ready to be transported to the olive oil factory.
After so much work it is hard to avoid being hungry. Before midday the small meal is limited and can consist of some bread, hardboiled eggs and tomatoes or cucumbers. A Raki as refreshment helps to wash it down.
In the afternoon comes the main meal, which is mostly grilled meat, salad and home-made wine.

Some of you will probably think: and for this they need so many months. But even though not every Cretan has the same number of trees and they grow without making many demands, they still have to be cared for so that they will produce a rich crop for the next harvest.
The trees are cut back taking away not only small branches. The inner branches are cut so that the remaining foliage looks like a crown and can grow fully again.

OLIVE OIL
Technical development has not stopped at the oil factories. Where before the millstones were turned by hand, which afforded a great deal of strength, or by donkeys, modern machines stand there today. These days there are two different methods of production: either using machine-driven millstones or high-speed centrifuges so that fruit and oil are spun and separated.
One thing remains the same with both methods: the olives have to be washed first to remove the remaining leaves and twigs.

Cretan olive oil has a first class quality, which has continually improved over the last 17 years. The consumption per person stands on average at 29 kilos a year. Olive oil is the main nutritional factor in Cretan cuisine and is held as the elixir of life. Todays research confirms that Cretans have the highest life expectancy of all Europeans because of the extensive use of the oil.

- Olive oil has therapeutic effects on stomach ulcers, relieves stomachache and helps digestion.
- Because of the excessive use of olive oil, incidents of cancer are very few.
- The pro-vitamin A and vitamin E offer protection for the skin.
- Reduces the formation of gallstones and shows positive results in the relief of bilious colic.
- Has a positive effect on growth and bone structure in children.
- In the fight against Diabetes plays an important role in nutrition.

For preparation or cooking of meals, it is recommended to use exclusively the real Cretan cold-pressed olive oil classified as "Extra Virgin" and with a fatty acid content of 0,1 - 1%.

OLIVE PRODUCTS
Even during the time of the Egyptians, Hebrews and Romans olive oil was used as means of payment, nutrition and conservation. For medical and cosmetic care it was also much in demand and still today the green olive oil soap is very popular.

In the last years more and more shops have opened, selling typical olive oil and natural products. Here one also finds wonderful carved olive wood articles.

OLIVE OIL RECIPES

OLIVE OIL WITH HERBS
Ingredients:
4 cups (ca. 1 ltr.) olive oil
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
1 level tsp. dried oregano
1 level tsp. dried thyme
1 level tblsp. mustard seeds
3-4 fresh basil leaves
1 tblsp. sea salt
Preparation:
Wash the herbs, drain and chop and place in a sterile bottle together with the salt. Fill up with the oil and close the bottle tightly. Keep in a cool, dark place for 3 weeks. During this time shake the bottle well 2-3 times.

FETA CHEESE IN OLIVE OIL

Ingredients:
2 cups of olive oil
kilo feta cheese in cubes
1 tblsp. mustard seeds
1 bay leaf
5 pepper corns
1 small hot pepper
Preparation:
Roughly crush the mustard and peppercorns, put the feta in a glass dish and strew with herbs. Add the hot pepper and cover with olive oil. Leave to stand in the refrigerator for a week.

PAXIMADI WITH OLIVE OIL, TOMATO AND FETA CHEESE
Ingredients:
4 pieces of paximadi (Cretan rusks)
10 tblsp. olive oil
2 large ripe tomatoes
60 g feta cheese
pinch of oregano
Preparation:
Sprinkle the paximadi first with water and then with olive oil. While the oil soaks in sieve the tomatoes and cut the feta into small cubes. Spread the tomato over the paximadi, place feta cheese on the top and sprinkle with oregano. Add salt if required.