A Taste of the Past: Why Corfu Olive Oil is a Hidden Gem
Corfu olive oil is not just any ordinary olive oil – it is a true hidden gem that has been treasured for centuries.
One of the reasons why it stands out is its traditional production methods, passed down from generation to generation. These methods ensure that the olives are carefully handpicked, washed, and pressed, preserving the integrity of the fruit and resulting in a superior-quality product.
In addition, the fertile soil of Corfu provides the perfect conditions for olive trees to thrive. The island’s mild climate, rain, and abundant sunshine, contribute to the unique flavor profile of Corfu olive oil, making it a true delicacy for the senses.
A Family Love Story to Land and Tradition
But what truly makes Corfu olive oil a hidden gem is the passion and dedication of the local farmers who have been cultivating olive trees for centuries. Their love for the land and commitment to producing the finest olive oil is evident in every bottle and has been transmitted from one generation to the next. The island of Corfu is presently covered in almost 4 million olive trees, many of which are over 400 years old. Olive orchards occupy 60% of the land that is already suitable for cultivation. Every year, Corfu produces roughly 15,000 tons of olive oil, and every family is proud to have their produce to consume in their daily meals.
So, if you are ready to indulge in a taste of the past and experience the richness of Corfu’s olive oil heritage, join us on this culinary adventure. Unlock the golden secrets and savor the unparalleled taste of Corfu olive oil – a true hidden gem waiting to be discovered.
Unveiling the History of Corfu Olive Oil
The story begins with the earliest settlers on the island, who recognized the potential of the fertile soil and ideal climate for cultivating olive trees, as well as many other fruit trees and, especially, vineyards: Corfu was famous for the quality of its wine and Homer (8th Century BC) mentions Corfu’s wines in “The Odyssey,” suggesting that the island has produced wine for a very long time.
According to recent research by German scientists from the Dresden University of Technology (TU Dresden), an enormous olive tree on the Greek island of Corfu known to locals as “Evdokia” is thought to be between 1086 and 1200 years old. But this doesn’t mean that the islanders used to produce large amounts of olive oil since ancient times, and we need to wait for several centuries to see the germs of oil production in large quantities.
The Romans considered the olive oil of Corfu as one of the best in the Roman Empire, but the real story began with the Venetian Republic.
Venice and Corfu: The Beginning of the Corfu Olive Oil Industry
Corfu became a Venetian colony in 1386. The Venetians ordered and supported the planting of olive trees after Suleiman the Magnificent sacked Corfu in 1537, uprooting the majority of the Corfiot vineyards in the process. During the middle of the 17th century, the Senate helped the Corfiots by giving them 42 sequins for every 100 olive seedlings they planted.
Intended for use as lamp fuel, olive oil production rose from 2,000 barrels in the 16th century to 70,000 barrels at the end of the 18th century as a result of this incentive. According to folklore, Corfiot oil kept the lamps lit throughout the towns of Venice. The Most Serene Republic’s main supply of olive oil during the 18th century was Corfu. As a result, it was in Venice’s best interests for the island to only grow olives, and only Venice was authorized to import olive oil.
From the Lamps to the Kitchen
It’s still unclear when Corfiots started to use their olive oil for cooking. The several wars and sieges that the island suffered during the 18th and 19th centuries, after the decline of the Venetian Empire, brought a time of scarcity of resources. It was probably then when they began to use olive oil as food.
For the bulk of the 20th century, the island of Corfu’s economy depended heavily on its primary sector. Olive growing took up a significant portion of Corfu’s population as well as the island’s economic resources, presumably because they don’t need as much attention as other fruits -orange, lemon, apple groves- and vegetables.
Today, Corfu olive oil stands as a testament to the resilience and ingenuity of the local farmers. Their commitment to preserving traditional methods while embracing innovation has ensured that Corfu olive oil remains a symbol of heritage and quality, taken up by new generations who have studied and improved its excellent characteristics, adapting traditional production to the needs of the gourmet food market.
So, as you pour this liquid gold on fresh bread, remember that you are not just tasting olive oil – you are experiencing centuries of history, passion, and dedication. From the earliest settlers to the present day, Corfu olive oil is a true treasure that continues to enchant and delight.
Exploring the Olive Groves of Corfu
Now that we have uncovered the history of Corfu olive oil, it’s time to discover the olive groves of this enchanting island. Prepare to explore the breathtaking landscapes and witness the dedication of the local farmers who bring us this liquid gold.
Corfu Olive Trees and Groves
“The heterogeneity of the olive grove, apart from the distribution in terms of soil relief, is also observed with age. A large part of the olive grove, about 60%, consists of tall trees, which are centenarian with cracks or cavities in the trunk, whereas a significant percentage of about 30% consists of trees aged between 30-100 years with a solid trunk. The remaining 10% is new plantations.” https://nomeefoods.gr/en/story/i-kerkyraiki-lianolia/
Dominating the majority of the island’s landscape, Corfu’s distinctive olive groves leave an impression on visitors. They predominate in the island’s scenery, which stretches from Pantokrator, the island’s tallest peak, to the high or low hills whose narrow terraces created by stone buildings prevent the earth from eroding, as well as the plains that frequently reach the beach.
These trees gain height as they develop strong trunks and lush branch foliage. The towering olive trees often take the appearance of dense, gloomy forests that block the sun even in the height of summer. These trees are very difficult to prune because of their height, and they cannot be harvested with a stick like they are in the rest of Greece. In Corfu, networks that wait until the last olives fall in March are beginning to spread as of October.
The Olive Tree, the Perfect Companion
Corfiot olive trees not only create a wonderful landscape, offer chilling shadow in hot summer afternoons, and give their olives in autumn, but also keep Corfiot homes warm.
Once the harvest is over, the locals continue visiting their land, but now they bend down to collect firewood. Every year the trees are carefully chopped. All those branches give high-quality wood for their stoves, which will heat their homes in the winter and also will be a perfect fuel for their kitchens and ovens.
Corfu Olives: Lianolia, an Ancient Corfiot Olive Variety
Why is Corfu Olive Oil so Tasty and Rich?
Since the olive must spend so much time on the ground before it can be processed into oil, Corfu’s olives bloom every two years in part due to the high acidity of the island’s oil. These olives are small and bitter, with a strong taste. Depending on when the variety was harvested, the fragrances of cherry blossoms and cinnamon wood predominate. It has a delicious, aromatic flavor. Its pungency is strong, and its bitterness is moderately strong.
How Many Varieties of Olives are There in Corfu?
The Corfu-bred Lianolia (Olea europea var. craneomorpha) is grown on the island, as well as on the other Ionian Islands and in the Epirus Region. The Venetians introduced it to the region, and went by the names Korfolia, Prevezana, and Striftolia. The lianolia is susceptible to hail and requires wetness in locations with strong rainfall and high air humidity to grow. It is also somewhat resistant to cold. It is distinguished by its lively flora, high height, and enormous trunks and can flourish even in hard soils.
Apart from Lianolia, we can find other olive varieties in Corfu. They are not so abundant, but some farms are also dedicated to its harvest and produce excellent organic extra virgin olive oil. Koroneiki, Manaki, and Tsounati are some of them. In some exclusive areas a rare variety called Thiako is grown organically. This olive oil has received several international awards.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Corfu
To qualify as extra virgin olive oil, a certain olive oil must meet certain requirements. Unique olive varieties, proper hand harvesting, and immediate transfer to an oil press are requirements.
To preserve all of the nutritional components of olive oil and to maintain a minimum level of acidity without the use of chemical additives, the cold extraction process is used to obtain the oil from the olives at a temperature that does not exceed 27 degrees Celsius.
Corfu Olive Oil Properties: Health Facts
Corfu olive oil is rich in vitamin E, which is fat-soluble, and the most important coumpound in it is α – tocopherol. It has anti-tumour effects and is inhibitory to chronic diseases (cardiovascular diseases, cataracts, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease). Vitamin E is also administered as a therapy in cases of frequent miscarriages as well in cases of muscular dystrophy with remarkable results.
“This variety is rich in nutrition ingredients such as Ω3 and Ω6, and play a crucial role in brain function, and normal growth and development. As a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA), omega-6s help stimulate skin and hair growth, maintain bone health, regulate metabolism, and maintain the reproductive system.”
Some studies have proved that vitamin E can help prolong life since it slows down the destruction of biological membranes. Olive oil with high tocopherol content has a high level of protection and therefore durability, while at the same time, its consumption protects human cells from oxidant stress.
Other Uses of the Liquid Gold
This excellent product is also available in other forms. Cosmetic products -soap, beauty cream, shampoo…-, olive wood handcrafted items, and also sweets and liquors are available to purchase in all the small shops all around the island. They are a perfect souvenir and a healthy gift for those you love!
Corfu Olive Oil Producers
We have already mentioned that Corfu has more than 4 million olive trees. They can be found almost everywhere, and their fruit is collected no matter how rough the terrain is. Those forests are Corfu’s trademark, and the combination with thousands of cypress trees gives the island a worldwide famous image
You will see the black nets placed underneath the trees from October onwards, awaiting the olives to fall. During the harvest season, many families will gather daily and collect the fruit from the ground. Then, they will take them to the olive mill, and you already know the rest of the story!
Let’s take a ride around the island and discover Corfu olive oil producers and mills by area. Some of them have an exhibition area or a small museum, and offer a free product tasting too. We believe the list is complete, but if you think that someone is missing just let us know so. We will add them to our post!
Here is a list of (almost all) the local producers on Corfu Island:
Central Corfu Olive Oil Producers
- Dr. Kavvadia
- The Monk
- Κτήμα Δ.Στραβοραβδη (Dimos Farm)
- Carburi Estate
- Andriotis Olive Mill
South Corfu Olive Oil Producers
- The Governor
- Δέλλης Δημήτρης | Ελαιοτριβείο -Olive Mill
North Corfu Olive Oil Producers
- Enotis Olive Oil Museum
- Lithari Olive Oil Museum
- Kerkira Artisan Olive Oil
- Ελαιοτριβείο Μεταλληνού (Olive Mill)
Corfu Olive Oil Tours
I’m sure you can’t wait to visit Corfu and discover all these places and tastes from very close. Let me suggest a couple of half-day and full-day tours which can also be adapted to your schedule and group. No matter if you’re a cruise ship traveller looking for a short shore excursion, or if you have plenty of time during your holiday in Corfu. Ask our team of experts and they will create the perfect route and program for you. Let’s talk!
- Olive Oil Tasting in a Corfu Farm
- Agricultural Tour in Corfu
- Custom Tour in Corfu
- South of Corfu Private Tour: Tradition, Tastes and Beach
- Send us your request
- Corfu Tours en Español
The images used in this post are from: Pixabay, @drkavvadia @themonkoliveoil @vivecorfu @enotis_olive_groves_and_museum