Olive oil comes from the Olea Europaea tree. This tree is found, mostly, in the Mediterranean basin, Asia and Africa. It grows approximately 26 – 49 feet tall, has a twisted trunk, small white flowers and silvery-green, oblong shaped leaves. It has a study and extensive root system.
Olive trees are very hardy, drought, disease olive oil and fire resistant. They can live for a very long time. The older an olive tree, the more gnarled or twisted their trunk appears. Olive grown around the Mediterranean basin are said to be centuries years old!
This tree produces round to oblong shaped fruit, called olives. Olives have a sweet fleshy layer outside and a small seed inside. They grow slowly and are harvested when they turn a greenish-purple color. They have a, naturally, bitter taste. Olives grow well in hot weather. If the temperature falls below 14 degrees Fahrenheit, it may injure an olive tree.
Olive oil is pressed from olives. It is used throughout the world. There are different grades of olive oil: extra virgin, virgin, pure, pomace, and lite. Their colors vary, due to processing. Colors can vary from a darker green to a, lighter, yellowish-red. Higher quality olive oil has a dark robust greenish color, found in the extra virgin type. If extra virgin olive oil shows a lighter, yellowish, shade, it was probably pressed from low quality olives.
TYPES OF OLIVE OIL:
“Virgin” has no chemical treatments, “Refined” has been chemically treated and “Pomace” has been extracted by solvents and heat.
Extra Virgin Oil: Least processed, derived from the first pressing of olives, contains high amounts of nutrients and vitamins, no additives, light, delicate, texture, superior taste, oleic acidity level of less than one percent, exceeding no more than 0.8 %. This oil is highly valued for its perfect balance of flavor, aroma, color and acidity level. It’s used for cooking, as topping on salads, in dressings or as a dipping oil for breads.
Virgin Olive Oil: Produced from the second processing of olives, has an acidity level of less than 2 %, more intense flavor and a good taste. Used for cooking, dressings, salads and more.
Pure Olive Oil: A blend of refined and virgin olive oil, contains small amounts of vitamin E, acidity level less than 2 %, lower nutrient content and is less expensive. Cannot be used for dressings, but better suited for high temperature cooking.
Pomace Olive Oil: Lowest grade of olive based oils. Produced from the residual oil left in the olive’s pomace. Blended with varying amounts of virgin olive oil to make it acceptable for consumers. Used for high temperature cooking.
Lite Olive Oil: Pure rectified oils containing tiny amounts of virgin oils, if any at all. Oils are light tasting and light in color. Contains the same amounts of calories and fats as all olive oils. Poorer quality