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SCIENTIFIC NAME "OLEA EUROPEA"
Wild olive tree in the region of Koroni
The wild olive tree first appeared in the Mediterranean basin. The first written record about the cultivation of the olive tree come from Elva (Northern Syria) where they discovered signs which date back to the 3rd millennium B.C. These signs talk about a very big production of olive oil in the area.
There’s similar information, dating back to the 2nd millennium, about the land of Palaistine. In his study “Origin des plantes cultivees”, De Candole mentions that the cultivation of the olive tree has been well known since 4000 B.C. and that the tree originates from the coastal areas of Asia Minor. He bases his theory on the fact that there are a lot of wild olive trees there as well as on the works of ancient writers and findings from excavations.
Dome tomb in Mycaenae (1680-1060 B.C.)
The olive tree, originated from northern Syria, spread to the Hellenic islands as well as the mainland with the help of the Fokieis and from there it was passed on to Italy, Sicily and Sardinia. Finally, it reached Spain through the Hellenic Romans and the Simitans (Arabs).
The palace of king NESTOR
Huge jar (pithos) with a lid whose body is embossed with horizontal rings, exactly like today's traditional jars (pithos) of Koroni. It was found shattered into pieces and it is reckoned that it contained oil.
Recent research in the Cyclades brought to light fossilized olive leaves which, according to modern dating procedures, appear to be 60000 years old.
In Hellas, the olive tree has been cultivated from the ancient times, as it is shown from the findings in the excavations. In Mycenae, from example, they found a fragment from a silver vessel which depicted an olive tree, whereas in the same region Sleeman and Tountas found trunks of olive trees. This is also supported by the fact that the word ‘olive’ is Hellenic and the Hellenic name is kept in many other languages.
Small lot at infertile ground
Frescos with olives as their main theme were found in Thira and Knossos along with different gadgets which resembled oil pressers (the modern equipment which is used to get the oil out of the olives). According to the French researcher Paul Faure, the inhabitants of Neolithic Crete were the first ones to cultivate the olive tree. Moreover, according to V. Kribas, the cultivation of the olive tree in Crete dates back to 1500 and 2000 B.C. During the Minoan times it was considered to be a holy tree and its branch appeared as a symbol in the hieroglyphic writing of Crete.
Abandoned traditional olive press, 1950
Today, the olive tree is cultivated on five continents with Hellas possessing the 3rd place in the production of olive oil and the 1st in the production of edible olives worldwide. As far as Messinia is concerned, it is an endless olive grove which produces the world famous olive oil of Kalamata. It is the land of olive oil and oil trees.
The cultivated breeds are; Koroneiki, mayroelia, matsolia and the edible olive of Kalamata (chondroelia).
The Koroneiki breed takes its name from Koroni, a city few kilometers southwest of Kalamata.
Grown tree with big branche
Due to its geographical location and the geophysical conditions which prevail (3000 hours of sunshine per year) each farmer has the opportunity to take very good care of his trees. It seems that time has stopped there during the collection of the olives which takes place using all the traditional methods which allow for the extraction of a product which is high nutritional value.
The olive consists of 70% water. It contains elevropaine, which has medicinal properties but which almost disappears in the ripe olive. It also contains sugars like fructose, lactose and sucrose. Moreover, it contains 1,5-3% proteins which, during the extraction of the oil, form an oily substance which makes the oil not be clear at first. It has a concentration of oily substances of about 19-33%, and lots of vitamins (C, A, B1, B2 and D).
The most important fatty acids of the olive oil are the unsaturated fats (very healthy for humans) with the monounsaturated helaic reaching a proportion of 83% which distinguishes olive oil from all the other oils which contain mainly polyunsaturated fats. Different acids found in olive oil are in the same concentration as in breast milk which makes it extremely easy to absorb from the human organism.
In addition, the olive oil is very rich in natural antioxidants like chlorophylls. Vitamin E also has a very significant antioxidant effect because it protects vitamin A in order to act for a longer time. Vitamin A is invaluable for good growth, good eyesight, healthy skin etc.
The antioxidants present in olive oil also protect human cells against the oxidation stress, active oxygen and free roots which are responsible for alterations of our DNA. These alterations are contributory factors for many serious diseases.
Research has shown that the inclusion of olive oil in our everyday diet protects us against cancer and contributes to the good health of our eyes.
According to recent research the consumption of olive oil even from babyhood helps the development of the brain, the central nervous system as well as of the skeleton. Numerous researches, including the one published by the ‘American Association for the Heart’, have shown that people who follow a diet rich in monounsaturated fats, like in the traditional Greek diet, run a much lower risk of developing heart diseases than people who consume more saturated fats which are contained in butter or margarine.
Researchers have also proved that people who consume olive oil run a much lower risk of developing other diseases too. Research conducted in Harvard University showed a correlation between the consumption of olive oil and a decrease in the appearance of breast cancer and osteoporosis.
Another research, conducted in 1999 by the Medical University of Athens, showed that the Mediterranean diet can help protect people against rheumatoid arthritis. People who regularly consumed olive oil as well as cooked vegetables decreased the risk of developing the disease by 39%.