Corfu Olives

Much of Corfu’s lush green landscape comes from its vast groves of olive trees. For islanders they have long been an economic mainstay. For visitors, there is nothing more magical than a walk or drive through these rustling, sun-dappled groves that cling to the hillsides on stone-banked terraces. Corfu’s olive trees are larger than anywhere else in Greece. Some of these ancient giants with their gnarled and knotted trunks are nearly 500 years old. 

Greek olive tree

Legend has it that Saint Spyridon appeared in an olive grove and forbade the islanders to cut or beat the branches of the trees, because it was cruel. So for centuries they have not pruned the trees, and instead of picking the olives they let them fall to the ground by themselves, spreading nets beneath the trees to catch them. But the Greek government has decreed that olive trees must be pruned in order to maintain peak productivity.

The Venetians were responsible for the widespread, systematic planting of olives on the island, which reached its peak in the 16th century. They wanted to ensure their city would never run short of oil. The Venetians gave ten gold pieces for every grove of 100 olive trees planted, and when they left it is said the islanders had nearly two million trees. 

Olives on an olive tree in Greece

‘A hunk of bread and a Greek tomato the size of a baby’s head need only a saucer of the magic stuff to provide a wonderful meal.’
Emma Tennant on olive oil, from her book Corfu Banquet.

Today there are said to be 3-4 million trees and olives remain one of the main agricultural crops on Corfu. Trees bear fruit only every other year, and new trees may take 12 years to yield a first crop. In a good year the olive harvest lasts from January through till May. 

Corfu’s olive oil is a dark, slightly greenish colour and is of high quality. Despite the abundance of trees, it can be surprisingly hard to find on Corfu. Locals keep most of it for their own use and the rest is exported to Italy.

Olive Trees on CorfuOlive Trees on Corfu

Ancient Fruit

Since ancient times, olives have been part of the staple diet of people throughout the Mediterranean. Olive cultivation and the production of oil date back to the Early Bronze Age (about 3000 BC). Corfu’s land and climate were highly favourable for growing olives. In The Odyssey, Homer tells us that the tree was cultivated here by King Alkinoös.

In addition to being part of the daily diet, olive oil had many other uses. It was used to cleanse and beautify the body, like soap today. Artwork on vases from the 6th and 5th century BC shows young men smearing their bodies with oil, and scraping themselves clean with a curved blade known as a strigil.

Olive oil had therapeutic properties and was used to soothe skin irritations. It could be blended with flower or herbal essences to produce fragrant oils. It was also burned in household lamps and later in the lamps of Christian churches and saints’ shrines. Olive oil was stored and transported in large clay vessels called pithoi or amphoras, which had a closed shape. 

Greek OlivesGreek Olives

Corfu's Black Gold

Nearly every Corfiot family owns at least a few olive trees. In the 17th century a family’s wealth was determined by the number of trees it possessed. It was customary for large landowners to let out the oil crop to the peasants living on the property, who worked the harvest in return for half the oil.

In rural areas the number of trees is still a factor in calculating land values. Trees and land are often owned separately. When purchasing a piece of land, the buyer must also find out who owns the trees, as they have right of way over the land.

In Prospero’s Cell, Lawrence Durrell describes the sour, pungent taste of Corfu’s black olives as ‘A taste older than meat, older than wine. A taste as old as cold water.’

Where to Stay on Corfu



Other Corfu pages

  • These Corfu shopping tips include advice on buying souvenirs like ceramics, jewelry, gold, silver, wood carvings, and food and drink, with tips on haggling.

    Corfu Shopping Tips

    These Corfu shopping tips include advice on buying souvenirs like ceramics, jewelry, gold, silver, wood carvings, and food and drink, with tips on haggling.

  • These fun facts about Corfu include how the island got its name, who wrote the Greek National Anthem, and the eccentric Englishman, the Earl of Guilford.

    Fun Facts about Corfu

    These fun facts about Corfu include how the island got its name, who wrote the Greek National Anthem, and the eccentric Englishman, the Earl of Guilford.

  • Corfu Town is the capital of Corfu and of the Ionian Islands and has museums, two forts, several museums, churches, and many other attractions.

    Corfu Town

    Corfu Town is the capital of Corfu and of the Ionian Islands and has museums, two forts, several museums, churches, and many other attractions.

  • Corfu or Kerkyra is the main island in the Greek Ionian islands with Corfu Town being one of the most attractive of Greek island capitals.

    Corfu

    Corfu or Kerkyra is the main island in the Greek Ionian islands with Corfu Town being one of the most attractive of Greek island capitals.

  • If you want to tour northern Corfu in three days you can see busy resorts, quiet fishing villages, Mount Pantokrator, and the Andinioti Lagoon.

    Northern Corfu in Three Days

    If you want to tour northern Corfu in three days you can see busy resorts, quiet fishing villages, Mount Pantokrator, and the Andinioti Lagoon.

  • Corfu writers and artists inspired by the island include both residents and visitors, like Gerald and Lawrence Durrell, Edward Lear, and Henry Miller.

    Corfu Writers and Artists

    Corfu writers and artists inspired by the island include both residents and visitors, like Gerald and Lawrence Durrell, Edward Lear, and Henry Miller.

  • The best things to do on Corfu include visiting Palaiokastritsa, a day trip to Albania, seeing the Achilleion Palace, and the museums in Corfu Town.

    Best Things to Do on Corfu

    The best things to do on Corfu include visiting Palaiokastritsa, a day trip to Albania, seeing the Achilleion Palace, and the museums in Corfu Town.

  • Corfu’s wildlife includes rare and colourful birds, snakes, lizards, fireflies, and insects, with plenty of places to watch the wildlife like lakes and lagoons.

    Corfu Wildlife

    Corfu’s wildlife includes rare and colourful birds, snakes, lizards, fireflies, and insects, with plenty of places to watch the wildlife like lakes and lagoons.

  • The Korission Lagoon on the west coast of Corfu is also called Lake Korission and has abundant wildlife, especially birds, and one of the best beaches on Corfu.

    Korission Lagoon

    The Korission Lagoon on the west coast of Corfu is also called Lake Korission and has abundant wildlife, especially birds, and one of the best beaches on Corfu.

  • Northern Corfu is the most diverse part of the island, with Corfu's highest point, Mt Pantokrator, and beach resorts like Sidari and Palaiokastritsa.

    Northern Corfu

    Northern Corfu is the most diverse part of the island, with Corfu's highest point, Mt Pantokrator, and beach resorts like Sidari and Palaiokastritsa.

  • From Nero to Nicolas Cage, the invasion of Corfu goes back to Roman times and through to Hollywood today!

    The Invasion of Corfu

    From Nero to Nicolas Cage, the invasion of Corfu goes back to Roman times and through to Hollywood today!

  • There are three islands off the northwest coast of Corfu, Erikouusa, Othoni and Mathraki, popular with day-trippers from resorts like Sidari.

    Corfu Offshore Islands

    There are three islands off the northwest coast of Corfu, Erikouusa, Othoni and Mathraki, popular with day-trippers from resorts like Sidari.

  • Kassiopi is a popular tourist resort on the northeast coast of Corfu with a sandy beach, Byzantine fortress, old church, and lots of places to stay and to eat.

    Kassiopi

    Kassiopi is a popular tourist resort on the northeast coast of Corfu with a sandy beach, Byzantine fortress, old church, and lots of places to stay and to eat.

  • Paleokastritsa is on the west coast of Corfu and is one of the most popular holiday spots. This page gives information on beaches, boat trips, weather and map.

    Paleokastritsa, Corfu

    Paleokastritsa is on the west coast of Corfu and is one of the most popular holiday spots. This page gives information on beaches, boat trips, weather and map.

  • Corfu Town’s Old Fortress is the town’s most striking landmark, standing east of the Old Town on top of a rocky promontory.

    Corfu Town’s Old Fortress

    Corfu Town’s Old Fortress is the town’s most striking landmark, standing east of the Old Town on top of a rocky promontory.

  • Greece Travel Secrets’ pick of where to stay in southern Corfu including hotels in Moraïtika, Paramonas, Messonghi, Agios Georgios, and near Benitses.

    Where to Stay in Southern Corfu

    Greece Travel Secrets’ pick of where to stay in southern Corfu including hotels in Moraïtika, Paramonas, Messonghi, Agios Georgios, and near Benitses.

  • Southern Corfu has busy beach resorts like Benitses, historical buildings like the Achilleion Palace and Gardiki Castle, and wildlife at the Korision Lagoon.

    Southern Corfu

    Southern Corfu has busy beach resorts like Benitses, historical buildings like the Achilleion Palace and Gardiki Castle, and wildlife at the Korision Lagoon.

  • This Southern Corfu drive starts and ends in Moraïtika, taking in hill villages, secluded beaches, lovely views, and a visit to Gardiki Castle.

    Southern Corfu Drive

    This Southern Corfu drive starts and ends in Moraïtika, taking in hill villages, secluded beaches, lovely views, and a visit to Gardiki Castle.

  • Benitses is a popular resort town south of Corfu Town with its own marina, remains of a Roman Baths, an old town, and plenty of walks inland.

    Benítses

    Benitses is a popular resort town south of Corfu Town with its own marina, remains of a Roman Baths, an old town, and plenty of walks inland.

  • Angelokastro is a 13th-century hilltop fortress with breath-taking views near Paleokastritsa on the Greek island of Corfu in the Ionian Islands.

    Angelokastro

    Angelokastro is a 13th-century hilltop fortress with breath-taking views near Paleokastritsa on the Greek island of Corfu in the Ionian Islands.

  • Greece Travel Secrets recommends where to stay in north-west and central Corfu including luxury mansions, inexpensive rooms, and resort hotels.

    Where to Stay in North-West and Central Corfu

    Greece Travel Secrets recommends where to stay in north-west and central Corfu including luxury mansions, inexpensive rooms, and resort hotels.

  • Greece Travel Secrets picks where to stay in northern Corfu with budget and luxury hotels in Sidari, Daphnila Bay, Kontokali, Ipsos, Barbati and more.

    Where to Stay in Northern Corfu

    Greece Travel Secrets picks where to stay in northern Corfu with budget and luxury hotels in Sidari, Daphnila Bay, Kontokali, Ipsos, Barbati and more.

  • This guide to southern Corfu’s beaches and villages includes busy resorts, quiet beach, hill villages and the southernmost tip of Corfu at Cape Asprókavos.

    Southern Corfu Beaches and Villages

    This guide to southern Corfu’s beaches and villages includes busy resorts, quiet beach, hill villages and the southernmost tip of Corfu at Cape Asprókavos.

  • North-West Corfu’s beaches and villages include busy resorts, quiet beaches, hill villages, and places ideal for watching the sunset,

    North-West Corfu Beaches and Villages

    North-West Corfu’s beaches and villages include busy resorts, quiet beaches, hill villages, and places ideal for watching the sunset,

Enjoy this page? Please pay it forward. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.

Latest Posts

  1. A Walk around Kolonáki

    This walk around the Kolonaki neighbourhood of Athens starts and ends in Syntagma Square and takes you to several museums, Kolonaki Square and Mount Lykabettos.

    Read More

  2. Changing of the Guard in Athens

    The Changing of the Guard in Athens takes place outside the Parliament building at the top of Syntagma Square and is a must-see for visitors.

    Read More

  3. Athens National Historical Museum

    The Athens National Historical Museum is in the former Greek Parliament building and houses an archive of historical artefacts and documents.

    Read More

  4. This “Secret Paradise” Island Boasts Great Food, According to Financial Times and The Sun

    Foreign press are raving about this Greek island, known mostly for its wild nature and hiking paths, but not (yet) for its incredible food.

    Read More

  5. Unspoilt Beauty: Epirus Lights the Path to a Sustainable Future

    In this wild and mountainous region of northwest Greece, pioneering individuals and communities combine traditional lifeways with sustainability.

    Read More

  6. The History of the Aegina Pistachio + 2 Recipes to Love

    The Protected Designation of Origin pistachios from the Saronic island of Aegina are arguably the best in the world.

    Read More

  7. Lakes Doxa and Stymphalia: A Peaceful Alternative to the Beach

    These two natural hideouts in the Corinthia mountains offer a quick escape from Athens and a great alternative to the crowded beaches of the islands.

    Read More

  8. Introducing Hania as a Cultural Destination

    The opening of the new Archaeological Museum as well as a plethora of artistic events throughout the city put Hania in the lead in terms of cultural summer destinations.

    Read More

  9. Athens War Museum

    The Athens War Museum is a fascinating look at Greek history through the lens of warfare from ancient battles to the Greek War of Independence and World War II.

    Read More

  10. Syntagma Square

    Syntagma Square or Constitution Square is the main square in Athens and has a metro station, the Greek Parliament building, hotels, cafes, and a post office.

    Read More