Three myths about olive oil and the truth from a Cretan farmer

Are you going on holiday to a Mediterranean resort and thinking what to bring from the trip? The best gift to yourself and your loved ones will be olive oil. My article helps you spend a minimum of time choosing this useful product.

A bit more than five years ago, I also came to Crete, went to bay some oil and was confused in the store: so many different jars and bottles—which to choose? Our guides have talked on the tourist bus about acidity, some kind of PDO… In my head, there sounded “necessarily extra virgin”…

I sent a request to the Universe, and it led me to the real Greek farmer Jannis with twenty years of experience, which later became my husband. What he has told me, knows may be nobody: not the guides and—I could say—even not the Russian network.

It turned out that there are many myths about olive oil. If you believe each of them, then you can look for this perfect bottle of oil during the entire holiday and not find it.

The first myth about acidity

The acidity or the level of oleic acid, for olive oil is, of course, an important characteristic. The lower it is, the better. Up to 0.8% has the cherished extra virgin, or first pressed olive oil, and no other one is produced on Crete.

Being farmer, my husband says, that it is impossible to distinguish some hundredths of the oil acidity. The number 0.2 on the packaging is very rare, since it is technologically quite difficult to achieve this level. Above 0.3% is the optimum. Nevertheless, some “experts” send tourists to look for oil with an acidity of 0.1%, which can not be. Instead of to be on the beach, my compatriots storm the shops, looking for hours a non-existent product, do not believing the souvenir shops’ sellers, take at the end of their holidays “just got” and part dissatisfied.

If you are reading my article, it will not happen to you. It is easy to find the oil with an acidity of 0.3-0.8%. You will be glad to your purchase and save time for some interesting walks.

The second myth about PDO marking

Olive oil packaging may have a PDO (Protected designation of origin) label. This should ensure that the entire process, from picking olives to bottling, takes place in the same area. For the quality of the product, the most important thing is the place where the olive tree grows: its soil and the humidity. Moreover, on Crete, these conditions may be radically different even in neighboring villages. However, as Jannis told me, most factories accept raw materials from various areas and continue to make PDO on packages: so better and more expensive their product is sold.

To ensure the authenticity of the marking is difficult for at least two reasons.

First, in the village where the factory is, there may be a failure of olives, and the processors take raw materials from other areas. Secondly, farmers (olive pickers) choose themselves where to take their crop. Moreover, it is purely subjective: may be they receive more money for their products, the owner is their relative or just a good person, his equipment is newer or transfer of their goods takes place without waiting. Someone is ready to transport his load hundred kilometers, another, on the contrary, is looking for the nearest factory.

Farmers can be understood. At harvest time, in November-December, they work almost without sleep and rest. During daylight, you need to collect as much as possible and bring olives to the oil production at night. Everyone acts as comfortable. For example, go away, but do not wait until the morning of this turn. After all, it is better to follow the process personally: the factory can deceive you and not fully pay.

Thus, it is not worth spending a lot of time looking for a bottle labeled PDO. This does not guarantee a higher quality product. Greeks themselves, who have absorbed the taste of oil with their mother’s milk, can not distinguish, where consumed olives have grown.

The third myth: only in a dark glass

It is known that oil is best stored in a dark glass. Indeed, so it is not exposed to sunlight. But to take home the glass safe in baggage is a great success. There are two more packaging options—stainless steel and plastic. In plastic, they sell oil for bottling, purchased by stores directly from farmers. This is the cheapest option if price is important to you. However, in transparent bottles, the exposure to light can not be avoided, but can be minimized if poured into another container at home. In a stainless steel jar, says Jannis, the oil retains its qualities for up to six months. We have such a 17-liter pot at home. Our family of three persons consumes it quickly: I am sure that olive oil will not stand for a long time in it and not have time to spoil.

Oil on the shelves is always a fresh one: it is very quickly sоld out. Therefore, if you are not sure that the glass in your suitcase survives, take a look at the stainless steel packaging. Read the dates of bottling. Or buy bottles directly in duty free to carry them in your carry-on baggage.

What kind of oil did I bring that time? I do not remember, but I remember the taste! Thereafter I already could not eat salads with sunflower. Olive oils, sold in my homeland, seemed me also to be imperfect. In general, having tried Cretan products once, you understand that this is the food of the gods, and you do not really want to eat something else. I will not hide the fact that this seriously influenced my decision to say “agree” in response to the marriage proposal and to move to Greece.

Maria Petrova, instabloger @maria_from_crete