Fresh olive oil – Kefalonia, Greece
I’m in Greece where it’s olive harvest season. Greeks consume olive oil like its water. You don’t hear about “virgin” and “extra-virgin” oil here, because it’s all extra-virgin, thus no point in distinguishing.
Greece is the third largest produce of olive oil in the world behind Spain and Italy. However, 80% of the olive oil produced in Greece is extra virgin, compared with approximately 50% of Italian and Spanish oils, making the country the largest producer of high-quality olive oil in the world. Unfortunately, much of Greece’s extra-virgin oil is imported by Italy and mixed with an inferior quality product.
Greeks consume an average of 26 liters of olive annually per person (and even more than that on the island of Crete, which also boasts one of the world’s highest average life expectancies). This is compared to less than a liter per person annual average consumption in North America.
Olive oil has been pressed in this area of the world for many thousands of years. Fossilized olive leaves dating to 37,000 B.C. have been discovered on the Greek island of Santorini. Apparently the city of Athens obtained its name because Athenians considered olive oil so essential they preferred the offering of the goddess Athena (an olive tree) over the offering of Poseidon (a spring of salt water gushing out of a cliff).
Today, some of the most important olive varieties in Greece are Koroneiki, Lianolia, Chondrolia (aka Throumbolia), Tsounati, and Patrinia. The Koroneiki olive is grown in the southern Peloponnesian area of Mani, where I was a few days ago with my girlfriend’s family. The region is known to produce the best olive oil in the world. Here’s a recent post with photos of olive trees in the Mani region. And another one of machinery at a local olive press.
The oil in the photo below has just been pressed, smells like freshly cut grass and is bright green. It is somewhat cloudy due to small particulates of organic matter that have yet to settle.