The health benefits of olive oil are well recognized; it is full of monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, has strong anti-inflammatory properties, protects against strokes and cardiovascular disease. Some scientists even argue that it has anti-cancer properties. There is probably no other place in the world more connected to olives and olive oil than Crete. One can describe Crete as a gigantic olive grove; it is estimated that Crete has between 3 and 4 million olive trees while its population is a bit above 600 thousands. Imagine that in the past (and sometimes even nowadays!) the measure of wealth of a Cretan was the number of olive trees (“rizes”) he possessed.
There are various types of olive trees grown on the island both for olive oil production and also for olive consumption. Olive trees in Crete grow everywhere, from plains to mountains and can sometimes be even wild, i.e., not planted by anyone. The vast majority of Cretan families produce their own olive oil which often is extra virgin, meaning that is mechanically pressed and has acidity levels below 0.8%. As you can easily imagine Cretans use tons of olive oil in their food and sweets and this is one of the main reasons for their good health and longevity.
All salads in Crete contain plenty of olive oil; Cretan love to dip their bread in it! There is virtually no Cretan recipe not using olive oil, whether it concerns legumes, vegetables, pies, seafood, meat or even baked products, such as bread or pastries. Last but not least, in addition to olive oil Cretans consume great quantities or marinated raw olives, mainly as snack or as food accompaniment.