“If you touch that olive tree, you will say that you are touching a tree. But I will hear through its veins the buzz of the centuries that formed it”. This is how Greek writer Pieridis described oleaster, a wild olive tree that according to Greek myth used to grow in Olimpus, near the Temple of Zeus. Nowadays, oldest recorded olive tree in the world is located in Crete, Greece. Although scientists can not be absolutely sure, its age is estimated between 3000 and 5000 years and still remains alive, fructifying until today. Symbol of immortality, perennial tree, strong and proud, resembles man in the resistance and defiance against the harsh conditions of the times.
Did you know that you can find old olive trees in Albania as well? Their fruit is somehow bigger than rice. The older and wilder the tree, the smaller it’s fruit according to experts. “Wild trees were the past, but they can be the future” olive industry expert Dhimiter Panajoti explains in an interview for AgroWeb. According to Panajoti, the wild olive tree is used for the pollination of other olives. “The quality of oil produced by the wild olive tree is limited, hence insufficient regardless of its excellent values. This oil is rich in unsaturated fats acids” he says. Wild olive trees grow in all areas of Albania that are popular for the production of olive oil.
According to Mr Panajoti, these trees can be found in the districts of Tirana, Durres, Elbasan and Shkoder, but the most distinguished trees are those in the southern areas of the country. “In Kakome, you can find entire forests of wild olive trees, but nobody is interested in their processing. We are dealing with remote and not preserved areas” he says. Wild olive trees are highly resistant to draught.
“Climate changes and heat waves represent high risk to vegetation, hence risking production. Spain has adopted a national strategy on climate changes and included the use of wild olive trees to deliver new plants that are resistant to draught and go ahead with production even in the strongest heat waves” he told AgroWeb.
People of Elbasan call wild olive trees as the grand parent of olives. The oil extracted from these trees is used in medicine since 100 kg of wild olives are only able to produce 10 liters of oil. Oil factories that produce wild olive oil are limited.
There is high demand for such olive oil regardless of the expensive price.
Fatmir Skilja, is a distinguished olive oil producer in Elbasan. He told AgroWeb that this year he plans to go back to producing wild olive oil. "In Elbasan we do not call it wild olive, but oleaster. In our farm we are able to collect 60-70 kg, but if we buy from other farmers as well, we can reach up to 300-400 kg. Production quantity is low. We produce 6-7 kg of oil from 100 kg of olives" he said.
Mr Skilja explains that the oil previously produced by wild olives had a strong flavor and color. According to Mr Skilja, tests conducted in Greece revealed that the oil has fantastic values and is also considered a 'super cure'
"Costs might be higher, 3-5000 Lek/liter, but its value is extraordinary" he concluded.
Wild olive oil - the ultimate superfood
Wild olive oil has these compounds in multiples and hence belongs in the category that protects the blood lipids from oxidative stress according to EU Regulation 432/2012.
With such density, a spoonful a day is all that is needed to provide maximum health benefits.
The extraction procedure (first cold pressed extraction) ensures maximum quality and high bioactive value: the olives are taken to the mill the same day, so the fruit has become oil in less than 24hours.
Wild olive oil is a unique super food. It can be used in food, as a more than extra virgin olive oil, but also as a supplement eaten raw in the morning.
When properly selected, harvested and pressed, wild olive oil contains very high concentrations of two pharmaceutically important substances: Oleocanthal (the chemical that gives the best quality olive oil its peppery taste in the back of the throat) and oleacein. In addition to their anti-oxidant properties, their ability to lower blood cholesterol levels and their strong anti-inflammatory action, oleocanthal has been proven to contribute significantly to brain health and help to prevent Alzheimer's. Research has shown that oleocanthal is able to bind with harmful neurotoxins in a way that stops them attacking neurons and makes it easier for those toxins to be cleared by antibodies. Because of that ability, there is strong evidence that the regular consumption of olive oil rich in oleocanthal can prevent the degradation of the brain tissue that causes Alzheimer's.
One 14-year-long study of 1,880 elderly people in New York found that those taking a high oleocanthal diet had a 40% lower chance of developing Alzhimer's.
Research at the Kapodistrian University in Athens, Greece, show that the wild olive oil has the highest concentration of oleocanthal, i.e. 528 mg/kg (compared to the average concentration of 99 mg/kg in other olive oils). The concentration of oleacein is 194 mg/kg (compared to an average of 48 mg/kg).
Another important chemical in wild olive oil is oleuropein aglycon, which is known to have a cardioprotective, neuroprotective and anti-cancer properties.
Another beneficial chemical found in wild olive oil is ligstroside aglycon, present in wild olive oil in world-record levels of 371 mg/kg.
Wild olive oil has four times more of the therapeutic elements than the average for the best olive oils.
The other benefits of wild olive oil
• Reduces the harmful blood cholesterol (LDL)
• Aids the cardiovascular system by reducing blood pressure and preventing thrombosis
• Contributes to good bone development in young children by aiding the absorption of calcium
• The high concentration of vitamin E helps counteract the effects of ageing
• Calms the stomach and helps prevent the formation of ulcers or gastroenteritis
• The oleic acid in olive oil helps prevent the sort of genetic mutations that can lead to cancer
• Helps regulate the metabolism and is particularly useful in the treatment of diabetes.
In the ancient world, wild virgin olive oil was called “liquid gold” by Homer and “the great healer” by Hippocrates. Why has this mythic image been forgotten?/agroWeb.org