Throumba Olive of Thassos
Surrounded by crystal blue water of Aegean Sea, near the northern coast of Greece, is located the beautiful island of Thassos. According to the myth, the island gets its name from the prince Thassos or Thasus, son of the Phoenician king Agenor and one of the brothers of Europe. After Europe’s kidnapping by God Zeus and her bringing in the homonymous continent, Thassos tried to locate and return his sister to their father's homeland. However, he failed to find her and since he was not allowed to return in Phoenicia without her, he resorted to this island that was later named after him, Thassos.
The green island of Thassos has been known since antiquity as an olive-growing region. European olive tree, known by the botanical name Olea europea, has approximately 130 varieties, among which 50 are the most well known. In Thassos olive trees, supposedly first planted by Phoenicians 2500 years ago, grow from the top of the mountain to the seashore. It is also believed that there are still olive trees that are over 700 years old.
Needless to say that throughout Greece, and on Thassos island obviously, the olive tree has always been considered blessed as it has been an essential part of everyday life with several usages from social and economic activities to healing and cosmetic applications.
The residents of Thassos during the winter season collect the olives and produce olive oil. This characteristic olive, which is produced exclusively on the island and holds Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), is called Throumba. Throumba is a special black or ripe olive, an exquisite product with unique flavour, highly appreciated by gourmet connoisseurs around the world.
Throumba olive is picked in the old traditional way by hand one by one, after it is allowed to ripen in sun, shrivel and render edible on the tree. The only processing of the olive is the addition of thick sea salt to remove its intense bitterness. After the excess of salt is removed, the olives are sprinkled with olive oil to keep them from sticking together.
Throumba olive has a medium size fruit with average weight about 3-5 grams and an oil content of up to 25%. The nutritional value of the olive is undeniable. Depending on their size, five small olives or three large ones give 45 calories and equate to one teaspoon of olive oil. It is also a good source of monounsaturated fatty acids. Olives are rich in nutrients containing significant amounts of vitamin A and carotenoids and small amounts of vitamins B1, B6 and B12. Black olives are richer in total tocopherols than green and are the only ones containing β-tocopherols and α-tocotrienols. The trace elements of olives are potassium, calcium, phosphorus, iron and magnesium.
It is no wonder that this traditional olive product made the island of Thassos famous throughout the world.
by Angelos Tsatsoulis
Agronomist Food Scientist - Former President of the Kavala Chamber of Commerce and Industry