10 Things to know about EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

Published : 03/16/2015 12:26:40
Categories : Eatapas & more

10 Things to Know about Extra Virgin Olive Oil

 

1. Characteristics of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Olive Oil is simply made by crushing and then pressing olives. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is extracted from fresh and high quality olives by mechanical means, without using heat and chemicals.

To be labelled as “extra virgin”, its acidity must be less than 0.8%. Additionally it has to comply with specific sensory criteria, which means that its taste and aroma don’t have to show organoleptic defects.

That’s why quality certifications or Designation of Origin seals are so important.

2. Health

Countries where people are raised on diets that include Extra Virgin Olive Oil, have lower rates of heart diseases, diabetes, cancer and asthma. Indeed many studies find the Mediterranean-style diet among the healthiest in the world.

Its quality makes a big difference, i.e. there is evidence of anti-inflammatory benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, while there is not any when it comes to olive oil.

Best quality Extra Virgin Olive Oils have a particularly high concentration of phenolic compounds that, with their antioxidant properties, may determine a lower incidence of cancer and cardiovascular diseases in the Mediterranean area.


3. Other Health Benefits

Extra Virgin Olive Oil contributes to decrease some of the most common risk factors for chronic diseases like obesity, hypertension and osteoporosis. Additionally, its content of antioxidants helps to slow down heart aging process and acts as a natural skin moisturizer, which explains its broad use in skincare products.

4. Extra Virgin Olive Oil Taste & Pairings

In tasting an Extra Virgin Olive Oil, the common attributes to look for are:

Fruity: having pleasant spicy fruit flavours characteristic of fresh ripe or green olives.

Bitter: creating a mostly pleasant acrid flavour sensation on the tongue.

Pungent: Creating a peppery sensation in the mouth and the throat.

The combination of these three attributes gives rise to mild, medium and robust Extra Virgin Olive Oils.

Pairing oil with food can be just as complex as pairing food with wine, however:

  • a mild Evoo goes with fish, seafood, salads, vegetables and mild cheese.
  • a medium Evoo pairs well with veal meet, chicken, salmon, tuna, pizza and sauces.
  • a robust Evoo is great with grilled beef, asparagus, hard cheese,

5. Quality

Not all the extra virgin olive oils are equally good and that’s why there is an extremely broad range of prices in the market. Even if it’s not necessarily true, higher prices are generally associated with better qualities.

Some of the features that determine quality are: olive variety, climate, olive ripeness, timing of the harvest, collection systems, crushing right after collection, production processes, storage of the product.

6. History of Olive Oil

Olives are thought to have originated in the Middle East about seven thousand years ago. There is archaeological evidence that use of olive oil dates back to 3,000 BC. The Phoenicians and the ancient Greeks commonly used it. It was spread to the west with the growth of the Roman Empire. It then arrived in Spain, which is still today the world’s largest producer, and was introduced into the American continent by Spanish explorers in the 15th century.

Today it is produced in more than 80 countries all over the world.

The climate change is making its production possible even in formerly unsuitable regions.

7. Tips to buy better quality Extra Virgin Olive Oils

  • Dark tinted bottles prevent the oxidation caused by exposure to light.
  • Ensure that the product is labelled “extra virgin”.
  • Look for quality certifications released by international organisations or for the designation of origin seals, i.e. D.O., D.O.P or P.D.O.
  • Look for products that are processed near the olive grove and have gone exclusively through mechanical and not thermal processes.

Tip: buy a quantity that you will use up quickly, since the Extra Virgin Olive Oil progressively looses its properties after 1 or 2 months from opening.

8. Spanish, Italian or Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil? What's best?

Olive oil is like wine. There are distinctive products in each of these countries. Since the production processes are homogeneous, differences are mainly due to climate, the unique characteristics of the native varieties of olives, and the ability and the experience of the producers in creating remarkable blends.

Due to climate mercy, a specific harvest may be particularly good in one geographical region.

Our suggestion is to try products elaborated from different olive varieties to savour the differences.

9. Production and Consumption

Spain is still today the first world producer of olive oil, followed by Italy and Greece. These three countries together represent about the 80% of the entire world production. Due to the demonstrated health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, the use of olive oil is increasing particularly quickly in the UK, US and Australia.

However, while Greece still leads the world per capita consumption, with each person consuming nearly 20 ltr. per person, the average consumption in the UK is twenty times less.

Is it just a coincidence that Greece has by far the lowest breast cancer rate in Europe?

10. A World of Varieties

Not only every olive variety has its own characteristics but there are also excellent combinations of different varieties blended by artisans that master the art of olive oil production to offer unique products. We list below some of the most common varieties:

Spain:

Italy:

  • Frantoio: fruity with a robust aftertaste.
  • Leccino: mild and sweet flavour.

Greece:

  • Amfissa: fruity flavour with a peppery finish.
  • Kalamata: peppery flavour with a bitter aftertaste.

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