Visitors to Ban Josip Jelačić Square in Zagreb, Croatia, were treated to a tantalizing array of delights from the republic's coastal Mediterranean region on Wednesday and Thursday. Olive Oil Days, an event hosted by the local awareness-building initiative, CROATIA: Land of Olive Oil
, featured tastings of a mind-boggling variety of olive oils from a handful of Croatia's 50,000 producers. In addition to samples and sales of top-quality Croatian olive oil, visitors had the opportunity to try soaps, confections, and even tea made from olives and olive leaves.
The festive event is one aspect of an ongoing initiative to provide locals and tourists with opportunities to become acquainted with the best Croatian olive oils while educating on its many health benefits and uses. Interactive workshops were also staged for children to teach them about the importance of the traditional Croatian product at an early age. One such feature of the program gave children the chance to color frames of the animated short film I Love Olive Oil
by local artist Ana-Marija Vidaković. Upon completion the film will be screened at Olive Oil Gallery, a boutique shop in the Kaptol area of Zagreb which offers many of the olive oils and products featured at the event.
Event attendees also had the opportunity to taste cheeses, pickles and other traditional food products made by small, local producers from Croatia's Mediterranean olive growing regions of Dalmatia and Istria. Herbed and smoked sheep's milk cheeses from the island of Krk were a crowd favorite.
While it remains a little known and nominally exported natural food commodity, Croatian olive oil is among the finest produced in the world. In addition to its high antioxidant content, Croatian olive oil boasts a broad spectrum of flavors, from mild sweetness to biting spice. Olive oil is among the healthiest of foods, and an integral aspect of the widely touted Mediterranean diet. Experts claim that among many other benefits, regular consumption of olive oil helps balance HDL and LDL cholesterol levels, slows the aging process via antioxidants, and drastically lowers women's risk of breast cancer.
Croatia's excellent food and wine have received more attention in recent years thanks to visits from high-profile culinary personalities, such as Anthony Bourdain of the Travel Channel's No Reservations
program. As the republic approaches entry into the EU, awareness-building initiatives such as CROATIA: Land of Olive Oil
boost prospects of much-needed economic growth from gourmet food and wine exports.