OLIVE OIL 101

One of the first distinctions you need to make is between the different grades of oil. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the king of the olive oils- the premium grade olive oil. It has a lower acidity level than other grades and has other characteristics in taste, color, and aroma that make it a superior product.

Virgin olive oil is the next grade down and will have a slightly higher acidity level.

Anything labelled ‘olive oil’ is a blend of virgin olive oil and olive oil that has been processed to make it fit for consumption – there are no rules on how much virgin oil goes into the final product

READING THE LABELS

The International Olive Council classifies olive oil as follows:

‘Virgin olive oils are the oils obtained from the fruit of the olive tree solely by mechanical or other physical means under conditions, particularly thermal conditions, that do not lead to alterations in the oil, and which have not undergone any treatment other than washing, decantation, centrifugation and filtration.’

ACIDITY Good quality olive oil has a low acidity.

SINGLE ESTATE OILS Oils are produced with olives from one site, and pressed and bottled on that site. They are often expensive but high in quality.

HAND-PICKED The implication is that inferior olives would have been discarded so that only the high-quality olives were pressed. Also hand-picking olives ensure minimal bruising to the olive fruit.

COLD-PRESSED Producers must ensure that temperatures during processing do not exceed 27 OC.

PROCESS

It can take years of care and attention before an olive tree is ready for harvest. Olive trees are usually grown from cuttings, a method which provides a more reliable replication of the parent tree than growing from seed. Pruning plays an important role in ensuring that the olive tree is as productive and easy to cultivate and harvest as possible. Pruning takes place to train the olive trees into a shape that allows easy access for spraying and harvesting. It is also done to encourage the growth of fruit-bearing branches.

The timing of the harvest is critical. It is easier for small olive estates to harvest all their olives at the optimal time than for larger operations. Harvesting olives is the most costly part of olive oil production. Many producers use picking machines but mechanization has its drawbacks. When it comes to producing the best quality oils, traditional hand-picking is still preferable because it is the method that is least likely to cause damage to the fruit.

It is also important to mill the olives as quickly as possible after picking (usually within 24 hours). The olives are first crushed in order to break down the cell structure of the fruit and thereby release the precious oil. The traditional method uses millstones to crush the olives into a paste.

To label our oil as cold-pressed, we ensure that temperatures during processing do not exceed 27 degrees Celsius. The freshly extracted oil must be stored to prevent oxidization. Vlatos Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil is stored in clean stainless steel containers.

STORING

Oil does not like light or heat-they cause it to deteriorate quickly and turn rancid. A cool, dark cupboard is an ideal place to store your oil.

HEALTH

“Scientific evidence suggests that olive oil brings many health-related benefits, and that in particular can help to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease when consumed as part of a balanced diet” “Several studies have linked olive oil to a lower risk of breast” “Olive oil is often cited as the best choice when it comes to managing cholesterol levels. Olive oil can lower LDL (bad cholesterol) without affecting HDL (good cholesterol).”

In 2004, The US FDA announced that ‘limited and not conclusive evidence suggests that eating about 2 tablespoons of olive oil daily may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease due to the monounsaturated fat in olive oil’ It is important to note that many of these health benefits are associated with fresh extra virgin olive oil. How it is stored, how it is processed, and for how long, can all affect the levels of valuable compounds in the oil. It is also much debated whether or not heating the oil can diminish some of its valuable properties. So, if you want to make sure you are getting the most out of your oil in terms of health, use it young, dash it on in its natural state over your salad or use it on fresh bread in lieu of butter!

DID YOU KNOW??!!

“The average Greek goes through an astonishing 24 litres of olive oil a year!”

Olive oil seeds berries olives on tree


olive oil bushes leaves shrubs


olive oil trees at the Vlatos farm


olive oil berries ripe on the vine