Every time I look for new volunteer experiences, excitement kicks in. I never know what interesting things I will find and where I will finally end up. So, here I am with the second edition of my travel volunteer experience, which brings me to the land of the Greek Gods and the golden elixir, a.k.a., olive oil, on the beautiful island of Crete. Enjoying holiday villas, sun and olives in Crete.
In fact, my trips are so spontaneous, that when I feel is time to change location, I go online to look for other places to explore. And by going online, I mean that I will check for new hosts on these sites. I go with what catches my attention and seems interesting enough to explore. There’s growth from absolutely every single experience. So far, I have met amazing people, learned about natural traditional products, uncovered new travel destinations, swam in December in the Mediterranean. My life is now complete ?.
This time, my crazy adventures of work and travel have brought me to Crete, the biggest Greek island in the Mediterranean sea. Among exploring the island, also, enjoying holiday villas, sun and olives in Crete were on the list. Contrary to what it might seem, the exploration is not only happening outwards, but inwards as well. Exploring the unknown, breaking of limitations, doing the unthinkable, dissolving behavioral and thought patterns. This is what 2020 has been for me and will continue to be well into 2021. A total shift in existence, thought and behavior is happening.
The Best Villa Experience
I spent a little over a month with the best host helping with the olive harvest in Chania, Crete. The cool thing is that shortly after I arrived, other volunteers came from Germany, France and Austria. We had a great time learning, cooking, exploring around, laughing and playing cards together. We were living in this beautiful villa called Asteri (picture below) surrounded by mandarin trees, orange, banana, pomegranate, lemons and avocados. Such an amazing feeling to pick your own fruit.
If you are a sea lover, this is your place. The sea is literally down the road and you can see it from the terrace. I would say that it’s around 5 to 8 min walking distance depending on how fast or slow you walk. There are supermarkets on the way to the beach and the walk along the coast is very beautiful. Besides Villa Asteri, there is also Villa Jasmine, both located 20 min from Chania town. And Villa Anagnostis situated in the mountains in a village called Deliana. If you are looking to relax, soak up the energy around and forget about the world for a second then give this place a chance. There are also many hiking spots in the area.
You can rent any of the villas for your family or a group of friends any time of the year. I highly recommend these villas and I have no doubt that you will enjoy your time as much as I did. Besides the fruit trees around and the great locations, I love the small details that really make you feel like home. For example, there is a water filter in every kitchen. I was so surprised and happy to find a place that values and understands the importance of clean purified water. You save so much plastic and money. Living here you don’t need to worry about water anymore. You have clean water all the time to cook, wash vegetables and drink.
If you are interested to rent for a short or long time, please send a message on Whatssapp (+30 697 339 3357) to Esther saying that you’ve found about the places through Paula at Simply me Traveling so she knows who sent you. Also, check their website My Holiday Home to have a taste of these gorgeous villas.
From Olives, to Olive Oil
Prior to this I had no idea how the olives are harvested nor the process of making the oil. I learned many things that I am going to share with you here.
Olive trees have a long history in the Mediterranean area and Crete in particular, dating back 4000 B.C., during the Minoan civilization. The land is inherited from generation to generation and the children that have grown alongside the trees have learned to appreciate and respect the land. I was in the Chania and Platanias region collecting the olives. Everywhere you look you only see olive trees. Practically, every local has some olive fields inherited from their ancestors. I love so much the abundance that this island is able to offer. Among the olive trees you can find fields with the whole citrus family (oranges, lemons, mandarins, grapefruit, pomelo, lime). Recently, people also begun to plant avocado and banana trees.
The harvesting season for the olives starts from November and can last till January. However, the idea is to harvest the olives as fast as possible because the quality of the oil depends on it. So working from dawn till dusk is something normal, as during the rainy days it is not possible to collect the olives.
The ensure that every olive gets collected, first we spread nets around the trees. After, using a machine like the one in the picture below to remove the olives from the branches with minimal damage to the tree.
As you probably have guessed, this golden elixir is very good for you. But that doesn’t mean that every olive oil is good for you. Only the organic extra virgin olive oil is the one that you should be consuming. Olive oil is known to be high in phenolic antioxidants. It is a healthy monounsaturated fat containing vitamin E and K. If you are buying an olive oil that is not an organic extra virgin you are risking the chance of getting an oil depleted of every beneficial property.
The taste of a good olive oil has a strong fruity bitter aftertaste which you feel in your throat. And the color is an intense light green. As you can see in the picture below the difference between the two olive oils is quite obvious. Never cook with the organic extra virgin olive oil. Use it for salads or put on top of your food after is cooked and cooled.
The most common variety of olives in Crete is Koroneiki which produces an an exceptionally fine, fruity, green, aromatic olive oil. Other types of olives which are bigger are collected by hand and preserved as table olives. The process is very simple. Put the olives in water, leave them for 2,3 days and after change the water. Repeat again. Add salt and water to it, let it sit for a month or a bit more until is ready to be consumed.
High Quality Olive Oil
Distinguishing between high quality and low quality olive oil is super important. You should learn to differentiate in order to stop promoting the spread of the low quality oil on the market. There are many factors that determine the quality and production of the olive oil.
The weather can be really unpredictable and destroy a year’s work in just a second. Hail, heavy rainy or very windy days can damage the olives and drastically reduce the production.
- Insect bites
The number one predator is the flies that literally can destroy a healthy crop by biting the olive and making a hole inside to lay eggs. The hole will oxidize the olive and affect its quality. To combat this problem without using chemicals farmers choose to hang a bottle on the tree with ammonium which attracts the flies and drowns them in the liquid. Just as the first method, another option is to add a yellow paper to which the flies will stick to.
After harvesting the olives, the processing is as important as the maintenance and the cultivation. To maintain the beneficial properties the oil has to be processed at a maximum temperature of 27°C/ 80.6°F.
Whether the olives are harvested too early or too late can also affect the quality and production of the oil as it can increase the acidity of the oil. A 0.2 acidity is considered a very good oil and from 0.5 above it loses its quality. The unripe green olives produce less oil, has a green and spicy taste and is higher in phenolic antioxidants. However, the purple, black olives produce more oil.
And of course, time is playing its big role too. After harvesting the olives they should be processed in the same day or earlier the next day. As time passes the degradation and acidity of the olives increases, leading to a lower quality olive oil.
To have a good production all year around pruning, watering and protecting the olives from bites is absolutely necessary. However, in the very last stage of processing everything can be ruined. Very important is to use a factory that does not use water to crush the olives. Quality olive oil is obtained just from olives. Nothing else. Equally important is how clean the factory is. That should be obvious, but unfortunately it is not. Any remains of other oils will influence the quality of a potential great olive oil.
There are several factories in Crete. We took the olives at the most famous factory in Crete, which goes by the name of Terra Creta. They are able to process organic olives without mixing it with other oils. But anyway, there’s always a risk of oils being mixed.
I hope you learned something from my experience and the next time you go to buy olive oil you know what to choose. Say no to chemicals and buy organic. And remember, holiday villas, sun and olives will be waiting for you in Crete to enjoy.
Holiday villas, sun and olives for you to enjoy in Crete. Let me know in the comments what you loved about this post.
Until next time.