Olive Oil: From Ripe Fruit to Liquid Gold


Where does olive oil come from?
Olive oil comes from the fruit of olive trees. Picking is generally done by a mechanical process as it is quicker than hand harvesting. The timely gathering of the olives allows them to ripen simultaneously. Also, the quality of the fruit declines if picked from the ground as it is subject to parasites while the oxidative process increases & can affect the sensory characteristics (fragrance, taste, texture) of the fruit & therefore the oil.

What happens after the olives are harvested?
Once harvested, the olive fruit is swiftly transported to the oil mill where it is sorted & weighed. The milling stage consists of a mechanical action with a stone instrument or pressing with a hammer crusher. A pulp of oil & vegetation water is the result. Kneading follows where the oil & water are separated for a higher yield of oil in the paste. Higher quality olive oil is then filtered & bottled as close to the harvest date as possible.  

What is the difference between organic olive oil & other kinds of oil?
Organic olive oil starts with healthy soil based on organic farming & ecological agriculture practices including natural pest control.  Organic olives are not treated with any synthetic fertilizers or chemical insecticides. Because the fruit is free of artificial fungicides, herbicides or pesticides there are no lingering trace elements affecting the fragrance, taste or quality of the fruit.

What does cold pressed mean?
Cold pressing means the olive fruit is physically pressed to extract the oil at a temperature below 80.6◦F rather than by excessive heat or chemicals. Higher temperature yields more oil conversely the lower the temperature of extraction the smaller the yield of oil, explaining why extra virgin olive oil often costs more.

What is extra virgin olive oil?
In order to qualify for extra virgin classification the oil must not contain more than 0.8 grams per 100 grams of oleic acid (less than 1% free acidity). The most flavorful of olive oils, extra virgin olive oil also has the highest amount of naturally occurring nutrients.  

What makes extra virgin olive oil so special?
Extra virgin olive oil can be considered a functional food, easily-digestible it offers more than just nourishment. Obtained from the fruit instead of seeds much of the oil’s advantages derive from the fruit itself.  The nutritional value of extra virgin olive oil is classified by the properties of fatty substances; providing a source of energy & unsaturated essential fatty acids. Rich in vitamins A, D, E & K, extra virgin olive oil is also rich in anti-oxidants (vitamin E & polyphenolic micronutrient compounds).

What should you look for in an extra virgin olive oil?
The 1st element to take into account when tasting an extra virgin olive oil is harmony or an overall sensation of pleasantness, in terms of both sense of smell & taste. Adjectives such as round, grassy & smooth are all positive attributes for a quality extra virgin olive oil. The taste should not be too pungent, the flavor should remind one of the fragrance of freshly cut grass, with an even velvety taste.

Why can’t you store extra virgin olive oil on the counter or next to the stove?
Although the most flavorful of all olive oils, extra virgin olive oil is also the least stable oil. Light damages the natural chlorophyll in the oil, leading to oxidation. Heat diminishes the nutrients & proteins. Both cause extra virgin olive oil to smell stale & taste rancid, so store tightly closed in a cool, dark place.  



Amy WrightComment