Interesting Facts About Olive Oil

Considered sacred by the people of the Mediterranean for thousands of years, the olive tree continues to fascinate us and maintain its hold on our imagination. It is believed that the cultivation of the olive began around 5000 B.C. on Crete and the neighboring Greek Islands. In fact the ancient Greeks believed the olive tree was a gift from the goddess Athena and began using olive oil in their religious rituals. Homer, the immortal Greek poet, called olive oil liquid gold and the Law of Solon, around 6-7 century B.C., prohibited cutting down of olive trees on the punishment of death.

The expansion of the Greek colonies throughout the Mediterranean also spread the cultivation of the olives. By 8 century B.C. the olive tree harvesting appeared in Southern Italy, Egypt, Southern France and Judea. Appreciation of the olive oil not just as food but for many other reasons such as promotion of health and beauty became ingrained in these cultures. King David valued his olive groves and olive oil warehouses so much that he posted guards to protect them around the clock. With the spread of Roman power throughout Mediterranean, olive oil became a major trade commodity and promoted commerce to unprecedented scale for the ancient world. Today, the Mediterranean continues to nurture the olive with its temperate climate and rocky soil. Spain and Italy collect the most abundant olive harvests while Greece is reasserting its ancient role as an olive oil producer. One can also find delicious extra virgin olive oils of very high quality produced in Provence, France and Portugal.

Olive oil is the only oil that can be consumed as soon as it is removed from the olive and there are reasonable claims that extra virgin olive oil is the most digestible of the edible fats. The method of producing olive oil had not changed in thousands of years, although the tools that we use today are made of stainless steel and not stone and the labor is mechanical not manual. The olive fruit is ground into a paste and then the oil is extracted through the centrifugal motion. This first extraction creates what is known as, and highly treasured, extra virgin, first cold-pressed olive oil. Absolutely no chemicals or heat are applied during this stage. This first pressing creates olive oil that retains the flavor, color and nutritional value of the original fruit. Often some filtration is performed to remove sediment from the oil; however unfiltered extra virgin olive oil is very popular with connoisseurs in the belief that it truly captures the character of the fruit and the soil. Importantly, in order to meet the standards mandated by the European Union olive oil marked extra virgin must have acidity level of 1% or less.

The price of extra virgin olive oil varies dramatically with producers country of origin and methods of harvesting often being the key factors. In fact, a consumer sometimes may not be aware that olives grown in one country are processed into olive oil and packaged in another country and then sold without mentioning the origin of the fruit. Extra virgin olive oil from regions with abundant harvests generally sells for less than olive oil from regions with limited or restricted production. No matter where the olives are grown and olive oil is produced, we encourage our customers to experiment with the liquid gold, so loved by the ancients, and enjoy different flavors, aromas and colors of the olive.

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