The Cretan olives are at the heart of the especial taste of the Cretan olive oil. The variety of olives used, and the way they are cultivated, are both crucial in order to produce an extra virgin olive oil of the highest quality, like the one in Crete.
In this article we are going to look into the olives of Crete and their connection to the taste of the Cretan olive oil.
The taste of the Cretan olive oil and the Koroneiki variety of olives
There are certain varieties of olives that are used to produce the especial olive oil of Crete. And they are not the same varieties of the table olives that you can easily find when eating in a Cretan restaurant.
The main variety of the olives that are cultivated especially for the production of the Cretan olive oil is the so-called "Koroneiki" variety. You can find trees with Koroneiki olives all over Greece, but the special climate and soil of Crete, and especially Chania, give the Cretan Koroneiki olives a distinct taste, that forms the base of the fine taste of the Cretan olive oil.
The Koroneiki olives are small in size and it takes a big quantity of olives to produce a litre of olive oil - but the secret here is not quantity, but quality. A lot of the taste of the olives has to do with the way they were grown, which in many cases is a secret that stays inside the family.
The Koroneiki olives are harvested when they are relatively green. This way, they give the Cretan olive oil that is produced from them its characteristic fruity and aromatic taste, and its golden green colour.
Koroneiki olives are grown mainly in Crete and in parts of the Peloponnese, like Kalamata, which also has a top-quality olive oil like the one in Crete. They are considered the best variety of Greek olives used for olive oil production.
The taste of the Cretan olive oil and Cretan olives - other varieties and history
There are other varieties of olives that are used for olive oil production in Crete, although they are not so popular as the Koroneiki one. Among them they are the so-called Tsounato variety, and the Athenolia variety.
The distinction of the varieties of the olives that are cultivated for olive oil production, and the ones that are cultivated for table olives, dates back thousands of years in Crete. As both the table olives and the olive oil were favourite tastes among the ancient Minoans, both varieties of olives were cultivated in parallel for many centuries in Crete.
Probably the best "monument of nature", which most clearly shows the rich history of Cretan olives and olive oil production in Crete, is the ancient olive tree that has been found in the Ano Vouves village, west of Chania city. The Ano Vouves olive tree is estimated to be 4.000 years old, and it is considered the oldest olive tree in the world.
One of the key factors of the characteristic taste of the Cretan olive oil is the Cretan olives used for its production, and especially their variety and the way they are cultivated. As olive oil production in Crete dates back to the ancient Minoan years, the Cretan people have a deep understanding of the secrets to producing the excellent olives and the superb olive oil of Crete.