The pungent smell of wild mountain herbs and the satisfying smell of olive oil are the ones that visitors to the island never forget. Herbs and oil have been a part of life in the eastern Mediterranean since the beginning of civilization, and olive cultivation can be traced back 6,000 years.
While we tend to think of olive oil as being just cooking oil, to the people of ancient civilizations it was almost inseparable from civilized life itself. It was used not only as food, but also in lamps to provide light, in tools for lubrication and for blending with herbs and essences to make fragrant oils. The Minoans were the first to grow wealthy on the olive, and Western Crete remains an important olive- growing area, specializing in high quality organic salad oils, especially the gourmet agoureleo (meaning unripe): a thick green oil pressed from unripe fruit.
Few trees outlive the olive. Some of the fantastically gnarled and twisted trees that dot the countryside are more than 1,000 years old. Many of these are cut down to be replaced with improved varieties and their wood is highly prized for making the ultimate salad bowls: dense yellow-brown timber with a beautiful swirling grain. A perfect gift from Crete.