Where is olive oil from?
Liquid gold - that's what Homer used to call olive oil in Ancient Greece. Olive oil has always been the most important ingredient of a healthy Mediterranean diet.
Olive trees have grown for thousands of years around the Mediterranean Sea in Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal. With hot and dry summers, the local climate of these countries is perfect for these resilient trees.
Today, Greece is the biggest consumer of olive oil per capita (20l annually), following Italy (13l). Spain is the biggest producer of olive oil. However, Greece and Portugal produce olive oil of the best quality - the premium extra virgin olive oil with a rich, fruity aroma and less acidic flavour.
How is olive oil made?
Made from the fruits of the olive tree, olive oil is technically a juice. Harvesting takes place once a year, early in autumn, when the olives are fresh and at their best quality with low acidity levels. Then they are the most nutritious and contain the most antioxidants.
The olives are crushed just like any other fruits. Olive oil, just like any juice, is best when it's cold pressed and fresh, and this is what we call extra virgin.
What is extra virgin olive oil?
Extra virgin olive oil is purely extracted from cold-pressed olives, and it's not blended with other oils. Non-extra virgin olive oil may include both cold-pressed and processed oils. Extra virgin olive oil means there were no chemicals used in the process of extracting the oil. When oil is cold-pressed, it means it was not heated over 27 °C during the production. This kind of olive oil contains more nutrients and vitamins.
Why is extra virgin oil healthy?
In recent years, the popularity of olive oil as a healthy ingredient has been growing, and many families around the world have a bottle of it in a kitchen cupboard. The fatty acid (oleic acid) in olive oil is mainly monounsaturated fat (73% while14% of the oil is saturated fat, and 11% is polyunsaturated). Olive oil contains omega-6, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins E and K and lots of antioxidants which protect our cells from free radicals. The oleic acid can help reduce inflammation and have great effects on genes linked to cancer, minimising the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease. Consuming olive oil is also not linked to weight gain.
How to cook with olive oil?
Although you can use it in many healthy recipes, including for sauténing and frying, olive oil loses some of its beneficial properties when cooked or warmed up. The best is to use olive oil for uncooked recipes such as salads, dressings and dips or just drizzle it on top of all kinds of dishes for a finishing touch.
You can now buy Greek extra virgin olive oil at Wholefood Earth and enjoy the goodness of this liquid gold.