Greek poet Odysseas Elytis had said that “if you deconstruct Greece, you will in the end see an olive tree, a grapevine and a boat remain. That is, with as much, you reconstruct her.” For Homer, olive oil was the “golden liquid” and it has been part of the country’s history since antiquity. Indelibly linked with the country’s heritage, it is little surprise that great care is taken with the product, ensuring that Greece ranks at the top of the world rankings when it comes to the quality of olive oil. In terms of quantity, Greece accounts for 15 per cent of the world’s production.
French cheese such as brie may be popular, but Greeks are also excellent cheese makers with feta, manouri, anthotyros, kefalotyri and the like being just some of the many popular Greek cheeses.
One of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world, the evidence of Greek wine has been dated to 6,500 years ago. Traded around the Mediterranean, Greek wine is still among the most revered. Experts recently announced that 2019 will be one of the best, if not the best, years in the decade in terms of quality of Greek wines produced in the northern part of the country.
Cotton accounts for 8 per cent of the Greek agricultural output. Greece is the largest producer of cotton in Europe, and the 10th largest in the world. It’s cotton is of the finest quality with up to 80 per cent of it exported annually to Turkey where it is mixed with other cotton fibres to create a lower quality product that loses its Greek identity.
There are a multitude of health benefits when it comes to Greek yoghurt, which boosts bone density, speeds up the metabolism, reduces blood pressure and improves gut health. It is unique thanks to the straining process it goes through, as opposed to manufacturers that add thickening agents to regular yoghurt that they market as Greek-style yoghurt. However, Greece is the sixth largest exporter of yoghurt in the world with $157,581,000 in exports.
Greece’s temperate, sunny summers are ideal for peach production and around 20 varieties of peaches are cultivated in Greece, mainly from Macedonia. Canned peaches are a major export, and also support the canning industry. A tariff war, however, between the European Union and the United States is threatening to buckle one of the country’s most buoyant sectors.
The multiple benefits of pomegranate are no secret. From fighting cancer, heart disease to promoting cell rejuvenation, the fruit is also linked to ancient Greek myths. Greece exports to countries around the world, with pomegranate being a lucrative business in Greece with France paying a euro per 1ml of oil extracted from pomegranate seeds.
Greeks themselves may not have much of an appetite for the wriggly white vegetable, but their production of asparagus is up high in the global rankings, coming eighth with $22 million worth of exports accounting for 1.7 per cent of the market in 2018.
Kozani in Macedonia, with its 500-year tradition of growing saffron, is blessed with the best quality of organic saffron in the world. Considered one of the most precious spices of ancient cultures because of its aroma, colour and medicinal properties, saffron is known as the “gold of the Greek land” and a precious commodity since the days of antiquity when Cleopatra would bath in it and Alexander the Great would soothe his battle wounds using saffron.
Mention escargot, and France comes to mind, however snails have long been the lobsters of Cretan cuisine – and farming. Heliculture – commonly known as escargot snail farming – is a lucrative business in Greece and the industry thrived despite the economic crisis.
Aluminium comprises 8 per cent of the Earth’s crust, but it was discovered and isolated in its elemental form less than 200 years ago and its use only really took off in the second part of the 20th century. Found mainly in bauxite mineral ores, Greece has some of the largest deposits in Europe, while Australia is the largest bauxite producer in the world by far.