Today, as thousands of years ago, olive trees still dominate the island of Crete and offer their valuable benefits not only to its inhabitants, but also to people all around the world, in many different ways, such as: a fruit(raw, cooked, processed or not), juice (olive oil) used as food, as well as for pharmaceutical, cosmetic and cleaning purposes (soap), and finally, a tree, serving as the base material for tools, constructions, heating, art and expression material.
Olive seeds were found in the Palace of Knossos and in Archanes, while the most striking find is the cup of table olives found in the Palace of Zakros, still retaining their sheen and flesh for over 3,500 years. During the Middle Minoan civilization, the Cretan navy marketed olive oil in large commercial centers. In Minoan Crete, the contribution of the olive trees to the economy of Knossos is more than significant and from there it subsequently contributes to the economy and life of Mycenaean Greece. The olive tree and its key role in economy and nutrition are very often depicted in Minoan art. Information about olives and olive oil can be found on frescoes, artifacts, gold jewelry and texts written in Linear B. Lots of findings show clearly that olives and olive oil were used extensively by the Minoans in the worship of the Great Minoan Goddess, the needs of the inhabitants, as well as export.
Its cultivation began in the Neolithic period (7000- 3500 B.C.) mainly in southern Crete and, since then, olives have been included in the basic food products of the Cretans. Findings to be studied - such as olive kernels – date back to 3000- 2000 B.C.. From Protopalatial (Old Palace) Period (2000- 1700 B.C.) there are findings showing that the crops were guarded under the care of the state administration.
Today, 65% (2,350,000 decares) of the island's agricultural land is covered by olive groves, including at least 35 million trees. Crete produces between 80,000 and 120,000 tons of olive oil annually, about 1/3 of the domestic production, 90% of which is extra virgin olive oil.
The quality of the Cretan olive oil is determined by the mild climate of the island, especially during the autumn and winter, during which the oil is produced in the fruit, the particular soil conditions that favor the cultivation and the varieties that thrive on the island. Moreover, the harvest and transfer of the olives is carried out within a short time period and with the help of modern export machinery used by the olive mills today on Crete, high quality olive oil is produced.
Some of the benefits of olive oil to human health are :
- Lowers "bad" cholesterol(LDL)levels in the blood
- Maintains "good" cholesterol (HDL) levels in the blood
- Improves intestine function
- Prevents from cardiovascular diseases and protects the body from heart disease due to its powerful antioxidants
- Treats peptic ulcer, as it facilitates digestion
- Reduces stomach acid
- Absorbs calcium from the body more effectively
- Helps balance high blood sugar levels and improves body metabolism among diabetics
- Prevents from cancer
- Rejuvenates the skin