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Olives and Olive Oil

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Olives and Olive Oil

There are over four million olive trees in Corfu, a legacy of Venetian rule. The Venetians taught the Corfiots how to terrace the hillsides and plant and harvest olives. Trade in the resulting oil was an important income for Venice and the oil was used both as a nutrient and as fuel for oil lamps. Olive trees require very warm average temperatures and grow successfully in Corfu, with its mild winters and long, hot summers.

In Corfu olives are harvested from November until April, six to eight months after they flower. Due to the size of the trees in Corfu, growers lay nets on the ground and collect the olives as they fall naturally to the ground, or are helped on their way by wind and rain. Once collected, the olives are taken at once to an olive press, as if they are not pressed immediately they begin to oxidise and ferment. Thousands of years ago, crushing was done by hand in spherical stone basins. Today, olives are crushed by mechanical stainless steel grindstones. (There is an interesting account of the production process here.)

The best choice of olive oil is to be found in Corfu's supermarkets and grocers. Local Corfiot oil can be bought at the Theotoky Estate. Olives are sold at Corfu's Fruit and Vegetable Market.

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