Olive trees and the valuable fruits they yield have been part of Cretan life for more than 3,500 years. Centuries of history form the background of the complex relationship between Cretans, their olive trees, and oil. A long time may have passed since the Minoan era, though the olive tree -fruit and oil alike- is still part of the islanders' lives. Far from being just a product, it stands out as a symbol of Cretan civilization through the ages.
The palace at Zakros features impressive olive harvest frescoes, vases, and whole olives dating from the 3rd millennium BC.
The Cretan elders will often say that "Even sitting in its shade does you good."
The islanders have found various uses for the tree through time, and still use olive wood for heating, lighting, manufacturing household items, and preserving food. Olive oil and table olives are indispensable to any Cretan meal, and Cretans often exaggerate and consume large quantities on a daily basis. Olive oil also appears in every religious ceremony and is crucial to religion from birth to death.
So far, eleven olive oil brands have been awarded PDO or PGI status, and Throuba table olives from Abadia in Rethymnon have been awarded PDO status, too. Crete produces one-third of all Greek olive oil, with 35,000,000 trees covering about 65% of the island's cultivable land. Most of it (about 90%) is extra virgin.
Raw olive oil has been scientifically proven to promote overall health and longevity if used exclusively (excluding the use of other fats for cooking). Natural olive juice contains monounsaturated fatty acids and Vitamin E, which increase "good cholesterol" (HDL) and therefore offer protection against heart disease and other vital organ failures.