Oil Is Gold in Greece
Contact with nature and the land gives people strength and energy. The wealth of the land is a blessing and its seeds are its gifts. Helen Zotou was never interested in farm life. Her father was an educator gymnast and her mother a nurse. She herself was a champion runner for the team Aris until the age of nineteen. After that she devoted her time to her studies. She studied information technology and then worked for the Ministry of Macedonia-Thraki at the public services sector for years. Then suddenly she made a change in her life. She chose to cultivate organic oil trees.
Pictures: Dora Topalidou (www.brightside.gr)
“My decision to work on the land just happened. It was the result of many things. I felt that the land would give me what I wanted. It will never leave me without food or care. I feel more secure near the land,” says Eleni and continues: “I was trapped. I both worked and studied at the same time. After that, I worried about finding work. The job I got was not the one I really wanted and I wanted to be free. My relatives accepted my choice unwillingly. I wanted to work on the land more intensively…” And she did it…
Everything began in a country house… “I was looking for land to build a country house Kalives, Halkidiki. We wanted access to the sea… We chose the area, built the house and planted olive trees. I then started work on the vegetable garden. On seeing my enthusiasm, my neighbor asked my assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Pharmacology of Natural Products at the University of Athens. MrMayiati was awarded for his innovation on the health benefits of oil. He also worked at the research center on olive oil at Davis of California and the samples were provided by us. The Green olive oil may be used in the future as medicine for people with heart problems. Last year the green olive oil WILD ATHOS from Halkidiki received two awards at the olive oil meeting. The first award had to do with polyphenols and the second was in the category of ‘’fruits’’ and strength of smell. It is an honour for northern Greece because everybody cultivates edible olives.”
The organic cultivation, the age being over three hundred years, the early harvesting, the mountainous region, and the ecological environment are all reasons for the success of WILD ATHOS.
THE POP GREEN OLIVE OIL OF HALKIDIKI, ITS UNIQUENESS IN THE WORLD AND THE GOLD AWARD
“If necessary, I water the trees twice in the summer to get their fruit to grow. Whatever falls down must stay there,” explains Eleni and she continues: “It is not right to collect whatever falls to the ground. I collect only what is on the tree. The fruit that remains on the tree is good. What falls to the ground has its reasons for falling. We collect the big fruit by hand and the small fruit with a comb. We must not hurt the branches. The whole procedure is done with great love. The trees feel the love. I speak to them and I hug them.’’
There are difficulties. Eleni’s steps are slow but stable. She likes contact with people. That is why Golden Tree supports people by taking part in movements without a go-between.
“For three years we have been supporting the effort at the farming grocery store. We support tobacco warehouses in Aretsou, Kalamaria every weekend. We also provide our products to poor families and to centers for battered women.”
She wants to pass on her love of nature to her children. She takes her children to the fields. They play by picking up olives and they feel proud of making contributions…” I try to teach them to survive. Nature will always be there waiting for you. I feel sad when I see abandoned fields and when I see people whom I ask to come over and pick olives and they refuse, even though they cannot make a living in the city. If Greeks turn to the primary sector, they can live with dignity. The land offers so much. Few people work on the land. They find it strange when I go to the fields in my rubber boots. They look at me strangely. When I hear about families without work, I invite them to work with me. I convince some of them and they are happy. Some university students have been working with me picking olives for many years. One of them has submitted papers in order to rent a field and make a living through olives. If there were seminars on harvesting it would help tremendously.’’
The olive tree is a magic tree. Everything on it can be used for something. Its trunk, leaves and seeds can be burned. It is blessed…and will always have something to offer; even the small leaves that fall become fertilizer. Cultivating it is not demanding. It requires love and care. Blessed it the olive tree and blessed is its seed. These were the words of Christ who himself worshipped the olive tree. Hug the tree and you will be amazed at its energy and heat…”
The green olive oil WILD ATHOS got eight international awards in 2016 for its health benefits. The Golden Tree is in the market and it offers extra virgin olive oil and oil from citrus, herbs,andbanana.The oil mixtures are mainly for overseas and the mixtures are made depending on the culture and taste of each country.
The response of people both in Greece and abroad is large. In particular, people from overseas are well informed as to quality oil. They have turned to organic products.
Children are the best connoisseurs…’’In Italy children are taught how to taste and assess olive oil. Children are more spontaneous and better at judging taste than are adults. Italians are ahead…’’
In winter Eleni commuted between Salonika and Halkidiki, and hopes that green olive oil will become medicine in hospitals one day. ‘’I will be happy when the world tastes this oil. It has benefits when 20g or one teaspoon is consumed per day. Instead of taking supplements, let us take the gift of God.”
“Children should take lessons in taste, not only with regard to oil but with regard to other products as well. Children should recognize all kinds of food and assess them carefully so as to have a quality life. They should learn about the way food because it is truly magical. We are what we eat according to Hippocrates.”
Eleni was a runner but she was never able to bring her father the Olympic medal, but she did manage to offer the world the wisdom of the olive…
Eleni distributes oil to houses. “I do it with love. It never tires me.”
The best way to eat the nice smell of the oil is the traditional way with oregano, cheese and ‘’golden oil’’ on a slice of bread.