The majority of our trees belong to the Koronèiki , lianolia variety which is native to Greece. Its fruit ripens around December and produces an excellent quality olive oil which features a special combination of fruity, bitter and pungent tastes and flavors with exceptionally low acidity
I remember when I was 8 years old and my grandfather called from Crete and said he had sent our olive oil to Athens –where I was born and raised- and it would be delivered tomorrow afternoon. I was there to receive “our “ freshly harvested olive oil and discovered that 150 litres of the “green gold” was our yearly consumption for a family of 5. My brothers and I were 8, 10, and 12 years old at the time. My dad’s 5 siblings all had families of similar size or bigger and also received their share of “our “ olive oil as grandpa called it. I was pretty good with Math from an early age so from my calculations I concluded that my grandpa sent to Athens a ton of olive oil and obviously kept some for his household. On our next visit I found out that the two large clay jugs in his cellar contained 300 litres of oil in case the “kids” ran out. He didn't want us to have to buy olive oil from any other source. It was the first time that I realized the extent of my families' production and the importance of olive oil in our family history.
What I didn’t know at the time was how far back that tradition went. At my grandparents home in Crete there was a picture on top of the fridge that looked as old as any I had ever seen. The men of the family amidst long, late night conversations fueled by raki often pointed towards that picture referring to him as “he” the same way religious people refer to God.
That picture was of my great, great grandfather who apparently had two gifts.
The first was that he could graft wild olive trees so that they produced olives with 100% success. He did this all around the valley and claiming wild olive trees as his own.
His second gift was that he could remember clearly where these trees were and never forgot to take care of them and harvest the olives.
He was in other words our first oil producer although at the time you couldn’t sell the olive oil and it was just used in our own kitchen. He also used the oil as a bartering system exchanging it for goods within the four villages around the area.
So I realized that that put us on the map as long time olive oil producers.
As years went by and generations came and went these isolated trees were connected by more rows of olive trees. These trees were planted as it became apparent that olive oil was a product that farmers could cultivate and make money from. Consequently they became orchards that were handed down to family members and some were inherited by my immediate family. My grandfather grew old and split his olive trees between his kids. He urged them all to invest in more trees and before my grandfather passed away my father had bought several hundred more trees. Now as my father ages my brother and I have started traveling to Crete to help him and carry on the family tradition. Our family’s call of the wild.
Forty one years ago, when I was a young boy we visited my grandparents during the olive harvest just before Christmas. During that visit we helped with the harvest. Me and my brothers, my father and his brothers with their kids, my aunties with their husbands and their kids went out to the orchards and spent the day in a chaos of activities. The older boys cut the highest branches that my grandpa told us had to be removed. We dropped them on the nets spread under the trees whacking the fruit off them with a stick and then put them outside the nets on the ground.
We all had sticks or bamboo poles of different lengths and everyone was whacking the trees trying to shake the fruit off but also trying not to hurt the branches as we were under the watchful eye of my father. We thought it was impossible to harm the branches but as we got more practice we understood the technique. As the fruit was thinning on the tree and the nets were filling the women were tilting the nets and moving the fruit into piles. Then they scooped the fruit into big burlap sacks. When the nets were free of fruit they moved them to the next row of trees so we could carry on whacking. Behind us the orchard was littered with half full sacks left by the women as they were too heavy for them to carry. At the end of the day the strongest boys carried the half sacks on their backs to a central point where a truck was waiting. There they poured one sack of fruit into another until they were all full then they used a needle and thread to sew them shut. We needed two men to lift the stuffed sacks, swing them in unison and throw them in the back of the truck. The truck drove off to the olive press where they lined up to unload and take the fruit through the final stages of becoming "our" olive oil .
That night after my father, uncle and grandpa arrived back at the house they announced that we had produced nearly six hundred kilos of olive oil. We ate wild greens together picked earlier from the orchard, swimming in sublime color, peppery, almost bitter tasting, fresh from the press, olive oil with a goat soup. My grandfather taste tested our days product, rated it as “good” olive oil and we all raised our glasses to cheer to a good days harvesting. During this dinner I came to the realization that my family were olive oil producers.
It was years later when I inherited my own orchard that I decided to translate my grandpa’s “good” to a widely acceptable and scientifically proven rating.
The chemist’s first reaction after he tested the sample I had brought him was “where did you find this olive oil”?. I was unsure why he was so surprised but managed to say with a low lying stare that it was my own olive oil from my private orchards in Crete, harvested and produced by me, my brother and my father. I asked him what seemed to be the problem . He gave me a big smile and congratulated me on our product and I let the air out of my lungs relieved that “our” olive oil was actually “good” according to his analysis thus confirming my Grandpa’s rating.
Having done some research I found out that the area where our trees are located has been famous for excellent olive oil production since the 7th century B.C.. Our orchards are located in the valley below the stunningly, steep mountain of Dikti. This is where the God Zeus was hidden by Rea so his father Kronos didn’t eat him. Still to this day the area is hidden from civilization and has a great reputation for its sole produce ”our “olive oil.
Our orchards are at 500 metres altitude and are located at the most southern point of Europe. This means that the olives ripen in December and January well into winter which means the fruit ripens perfectly and is full of healthy characteristics. Nearly organic and blessed by a micro clima that is perfect for olive trees we now know that “our “ olive oil rated “good “ by my grandfather is consistently rated year after year to be Ultra Premium quality extra virgin olive oil .
Now that olive oil has been discovered for its excellent health benefits we want to share with you the magic oil from the trees that my Grandfather and his fathers before him nurtured with their own hands.
Our families have grown and taken their own paths but every year in December we come together to harvest the olives in our Cretan valley. Keeping alive the Peraki family traditions of excellent olive oil, cold pressed and now bottled and shipped all over the world.
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