OK, so when you think of the foods of Greece, what do you think of?
No, not gyros. Not baklava. Sheesh, people.
Olive oil. Yes, olives are grown throughout the country, and although Greece is only third in olive oil production in the world, they are first in quality. At least that’s what we were told by George Dimitriadis, our guide and owner of the Biolea olive oil company.
Here’s what you need for the best olive oil:
Use olives grown sustainably, on a single estate. In this way, you can control the quality of the olives, and maintain a healthy soil and clean local environment.
Pick them, by hand, at just the right moment. How can you tell? Only time and experience will bring you that knowledge.
Mill the olives with a stone wheel only , and press with no heat or additives. It’s slower, but it produces sweeter oil that retains its nutrients. On the label this is called “stone milled” and “cold pressed.”
Only use the first pressing of the olives. This is what is referred to by the designation “extra virgin.”
Our tour this afternoon (May 22) was a winner for everyone in the group. Traveling into the hills of Crete outside of Chania, we wound through small villages that were closed up for the afternoon (nap time) and found ourselves in the beyond beautiful Astrikas Estate. George is the sixth generation owner of this land, to which he returned from an ex-pat life in Canada with the goal of making the best olive oil possible.
We finished the tour with an olive oil tasting and the chance to buy some in order to enrich our lives back at home.
George also suggested that we stop on the way back to MAICh at a 2000-year-old olive tree he knew of. Of course we did!
And practically in the shadow of the venerable tree, a tiny garden and chicken run. This is how artichokes grow, by the way: on top of stalks like their cousins, the thistles.
After a stressful morning, it was a charming way to end the day.