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About Olive oil
Olive oil is the pure oil obtained from the fruit of olive trees. No oil obtained using solvents, re-esterification processes, or mixed with other vegetable oils qualifies under this description.
There are many different kinds of olive varieties from which oil can be produced, and each brings a unique flavor and quality to the oil. While some olive oil is made by blending different olive varieties together, mono-varietals or monocultivar olive oils, are made using just one. It is the variety of olive, along with the maturity of the fruit, that contributes most to the flavor of the oil.
Olive oils described as ‘virgin’ are those that have been obtained from the original fruit without having been synthetically treated. Once the olives have been picked, pressed, and washed, no other process has taken place other than decantation, and centrifugation to extract the oil, and filtration.
The best quality of olive oil available is described as ‘extra virgin’.
Extra virgin is the highest quality and most flavorful olive oil classification. In chemical terms, it is described as having a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 0.8 grams per 100 grams and a peroxide value of less than 20 milliequivalent O2. It must be produced entirely by mechanical means without the use of any solvents, and under temperatures that will not degrade the oil (less than 86°F, 30°C). In fact, the term “virgin”, is what the word means. “Untouched”.
In order for an oil to qualify as “extra virgin” the oil must also pass both an official chemical test in a laboratory and a sensory evaluation by a trained tasting panel recognized by the International Olive Council. The olive oil must be found to be free from defects while exhibiting some fruitiness.
Since extra virgin olive oil is simply pressed fruit juice without additives, the factors influencing its quality and taste encompass the countless decisions, ethics and skills of the producer, and the terroirs itself.
Olive oil tasters describe the positive attributes are described in the following terms:
Fruity: Having pleasant spicy fruit flavors characteristic of fresh ripe or green olives. Ripe fruit yields oils that are milder, aromatic, buttery, and floral. Green fruit yields oils that are grassy, herbaceous, bitter, and pungent. Fruitiness also varies by the variety of olive.
Bitter: Creating a mostly pleasant acrid flavor sensation on the tongue.
Pungent: Creating a peppery sensation in the mouth and throat.
Anyone coming from the Mediterranean region would tell you about the health benefits, as well as the wonderful flavour, of a good dose of Extra Virgin Olive Oil on salads, pasta, fish and almost anything else.
Fortunately, it is available throughout the year to satisfy taste buds and promote good health.
Olive oil is made from the crushing and then subsequent pressing of olives (the fruit of the olive tree). The fact that olives are rich in oil is reflected in the botanical name of the olive tree - Olea europea - since the word "oleum" means oil in Latin. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is derived from the first pressing of the olives and has the most delicate flavour and most antioxidant benefits.
Tasting Olive Oil
The aromas of olive oil are a critical part of its flavor. Pour a little bit of extra virgin olive oil into a small glass. Hold it, swirl it, warm it for a minute or two. Then put your nose in the glass and take in the aroma or “nose” of the olive oil. You may notice the smell of fresh-cut grass, cinnamon, tropical fruits or other aromas of ripe or green olive fruit.
Now take a sip. You want to get the impressions of the entire mouth. Suck air through the oil to coax more aromas out of it, and then — this is important — close your mouth and breathe out through your nose. This “retro nasal” perception will give you a whole bunch of other flavor notes.
Retro nasal perception is possible because your mouth connects to your nose in the back. Now swallow some, or all of the olive oil.
Pungency is a peppery sensation, detected in the throat, and a positive characteristic of olive oil. It is a chemical irritation, like the hotness of chilies, and equally appealing once you get used to it. Pungency can be very mild—just the tiniest tingle—or it can be intense enough to make you cough. Olive oil aficionados will sometimes refer to a one, two, or look out, a three-cough oil.
The third positive attribute of olive oil, in addition to fruity and pungent, is bitter. Bitterness, like pungency, is also an acquired taste. As anyone who has ever tasted an olive right off the tree can attest, bitter is a prominent taste in fresh olives. Since olive oil is made from uncured olives, varying degrees of bitterness can be found; oil made from riper fruit will have little to no bitterness, oil made from greener fruit can be distinctly bitter. American taste horizons are broadening; we are exploring bitterness with foods like dark chocolate, bitter salad greens and now, robust olive oils.
The fruity characteristics you may notice in the mouth include nutty, buttery and other ripe flavors, and a fuller spectrum of green fruity notes. The traditional palate cleanser between olive oils, is water, plain or sparkling, and slices of Granny Smith apple.
Storing Olive Oil
Fresh extra virgin olive oil delivers a wonderful flavor and legendary health benefits. To ensure that your olive oil maintains optimum freshness and flavor, there are a few things you can do to store it properly.
Avoid Heat, Light, and Air
When olive oil is exposed to heat, light, and air the valuable nutrients in the oil begin to oxidize and it will begin to lose its fruit flavors. When buying extra virgin olive oil, look for those packaged in opaque or tinted glass. Or, try pouring olive oil into a clean used red wine bottle equipped with a spout. Do not store olive oil in plastic containers, as the oil can leach harmful substances out of the plastic.
Store your olive oil in a kitchen cabinet or another cool, dark location such as a basement or wine cellar. Keep a small container of olive oil within easy reach, and the rest of your supply tucked away to avoid repeated exposure to air. Make sure the lids of your containers fit tightly, and never store olive oil next to the stove, where it will invariably be exposed to heat.
Don’t Store Olive Oil Too Long
Olive oil should be consumed within two years of pressing. Any longer, and the flavors deteriorate and the nutrients degrade. Every month that olive oil ages, the acidity levels increase, a result of oxidization. Extra-virgin olive oils have the potential to last longer than other grades because they have a lower acidity. Buy your olive oil fresh from a supplier, or specialty retailer with high turnover. Pick a bottle from the back of the shelf where it has been shielded from harsh lights. Check the date of pressing if there is one, and abide by expiration dates. Maybe most importantly, use extra virgin olive oil liberally. You’ll have a healthier diet and your supply will always be fresh.
In Greece, there are several varieties of olive trees. Among others, the most popular and most common are Koroneiki, Ladolia, Manaki, Athinolia (Tsounati) also Throuba, Konservolia etc. During the stages of maturity, olive fruit changes color from green to violet and then black.
Olive Oil taste characteristics depend on which stage of ripeness olive fruits are been collected. Olive Oil coming from green to violet olive fruits contains large amounts of phenolic and aromatic compounds and has intensive fruity and herbal taste (Koroneiki and Athinolia variety).
On the other hand, as the fruit becomes riper the amounts of phenolic and aromatic compounds are getting lower. The taste of olive oil that comes from violet to black fruits is softer and its aroma reminds ripe fruits like apple, tomatoes and sometimes almonds (Ladolia and Manaki variety).
This is the most popular variety in Greece. The 60% of the total Greek production is Koroneiki. It has a small size and matures relatively from early October to December. Its weight is from 0.3 to 1.0 grams and its length from 12 to 15 millimeters. Although the fact that Koroneiki tree needs minor attention and can stand low temperature during the winter, it gives the finest olive oil comparing to other varieties.
This variety matures slowly and its collection is from end of December till beginning of January. Its fruit has medium size with an oval shape. Its weight is from 2.2 till 2.9 grams, and its length can vary from 7.5 to 25 millimeters. Olive oil from Athinolia is of excellent quality with a rather low viscosity.
It is a variety which gives flowers from end of April till end of May. Its fruits mature end of October till end of November. The size of the fruit is rather small with dimensions of 10 to 16 millimeters and it has an average weight of 1.2 grams.
This variety is of medium hardiness. The fruit mature ripens between December and January. it is harvested when it has undergone full color change. It has elongated and asymmetric shape where its weight is quite high. It is moderately resistant to cold and sensitive to excessively hot climates. It is the most famous table olive around the world.
This variety is of medium hardiness and it has a medium rooting ability. Mature and harvest date depends on the end use of the fruit. It has an ovoid shape. Due to the fact that it has a medium content of good quality olive oil it is mostly used as table oil or olive spread. It is resistant to cold and olive knot whereas it is sensitive to verticillium wilt and moderately sensitive to dry climates.
This variety is also of medium hardiness as Kalamon. The fruit mature early and its harvest is being done during November and December. This olive fruit doesn’t turn complete black when it reaches maturity. It has an elongated and asymmetric shape where its weight is quite high. It is resistant to drought and cold.
This variety also matures slowly and the best time for harvesting is from end of January till beginning of February. The fruit has average dimensions with an oval shape. Its weight varies from 2.2 to 2.9 grams. What characterizes Manaki tree is that it can resist to high altitudes, where other varieties, except Athinolia, cannot thrive.
The health benefits of olive oil are extensive with new positive attributes discovered all the time. One prominent cardiologist recommends at least two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil each day. At present, it is believed that in addition to bolstering the immune system and helping to protect against viruses, olive oil is also effective in fighting against diseases such as:
Heart Disease: Olive oil helps lower levels of blood cholesterol leading to heart disease.
Occident Stress: Olive oil contains antioxidants such as Vitamin E, carotenoids and phenolic compounds which also help lead to long life.
Cancer: Studies suggest that olive oil exerts a protective effect against certain malignant tumors (breast, prostate, endometrium, digestive tract…). A number of research studies have documented that olive oil reduces the risk of breast cancer. Eating a healthy diet with olive oil as the main source of fat could considerably lower cancer incidence.
Blood Pressure: Recent studies indicate that regular consumption of olive oil can help decrease both systolic (maximum) and diastolic (minimum) blood pressure.
Diabetes: It has been demonstrated that a diet that is rich in olive oil, low in saturated fats, moderately rich in carbohydrates and soluble fiber from fruit, vegetables, pulses and grains is the most effective approach for diabetics. It helps lower “bad” low-density lipoproteins while improving blood sugar control and enhances insulin sensitivity.
Obesity: Although high in calories, olive oil has shown to help reduce levels of obesity.
Rheumatoid Arthritis: Although the reasons are still not fully clear, recent studies have proved that people with diets containing high levels of olive oil are less likely to develop rheumatiod arthritis.
Osteoporosis: A high consumption of olive oil appears to improve bone mineralization and calcification. It helps calcium absorption and so plays an important role in aiding sufferers and in preventing the onset of Osteoporosis.
Since ancient times olive oil has been used as a way to moisturize and help rejuvenate damaged skin.
As we age our skin deteriorates and its inner and outer layers (dermis and epidermis) grow much thinner. The stresses and strains of aging also cause the skin to lose elasticity, which soon becomes noticeable as wrinkles. External factors, such as the sun’s rays can also speed up the aging process by generating what are called ‘free radicals’. The good news is that it’s possible to reduce the damage done to cells by using ‘inhibitors’ that lower the risk. There are many creams and lotions on the market that can help with this but if you’re looking for a natural ‘inhibitor’, you need look no further than olive oil, which has a lipid profile very close to that of human skin.
Olive oil has a large proportion of vitamins A, D, and K, as well as vitamin E, which is a key source of protein needed in the fight against free radicals. This makes olive oil particularly helpful in the fight against skin disorders such as acne, psoriasis, and seborrheic eczemas.
More generally, olive oil can be used daily to improve the condition of skin in the following ways:
As an exfoliator: Mixing olive oil with sea salt and massaging into an affected area helps remove dead skin and enrich the healthier layers below it. Adding oil to a bath also helps moisturize the whole body.
In nail and cuticle care: Extra virgin olive oil is a simple solution for dry nails and cuticles. By rubbing a few drops into the cuticle area and around the nail, cuticles stay moist, and nails respond with a natural shine.
As an eye makeup remover: A drop or two of extra virgin olive oil on a cotton pad helps to gently and effectively remove eye makeup without irritating the delicate skin. Olive oil also helps to smooth wrinkles that can form around the eyes.
SOURCES Apostolos (Paul) K. Kiritsakis: Olive Oil, From the Tree to the Table, Second Edition Tous, J. and L. Ferguson. 1996. Mediterranean fruits. p. 416-430. In: J. Janick (ed.), Progress in new crops. ASHS Press, Arlington, VA. Goulart (1980); Sawaya et al. (1983); Fernandez Diez (1983); IBPGR (1986); Morton (1987); Cantwell (1994). Guido Costa: A great discussion of olive oil chemistry by Guido Costa in simple terms.