EVOO Stories

What you still don’t know about Extra virgin olive oil

Written by Veronica Lavenia

Philological studies have shown that the word “olive” does not exist in Sanskrit. Reason for which it is reasonable to believe that this plant was unknown to Assyrians and Babylonians, who mostly used sesame oil.

On the contrary, Armenians and Egyptians were among the most active peoples in the use of olive oil, even in cosmetics to moisturize the skin, make hair shiny and to preserve mummies.

About two thousand years ago, the Greek doctor Galen, combining olive oil, beeswax and water, created the first emulsion, known as Ceratum Galeni.

Image courtesy Castillo de Canena

Image courtesy Castillo de Canena.

From Asia Minor, the cultivation of the olive tree arrived in Greece and, over time, in the various countries of the Mediterranean. Evidence of the olive tree in Greece is also evident in the Odyssey where we read that Ulysses had carved his wedding bed in a huge olive tree trunk. In Magna Graecia, olive cultivation was very flourishing, from Southern Italy to Liguria.

Even the Etruscans were admirers of olive oil as confirmed by archaeological findings on the subject discovered over the years.

The ancient Romans used only olive oil in the kitchen. It seems that at the time the best oils were “green oil from Venafro” and that of Liburnia in Istria.

There was no lack of counterfeits then, as today, as evidenced by Galen himself who reports that, often, olive oil was “cut” with liquefied lard.

Apicius, the most famous gastronome in Roman times, in his recipes gives suggestions for adjusting the poor oil by adding chopped vegetables.

Martial, a famous poet of the Roman era, reports that olives were served in all dinners, even the most important ones, consumed both as appetizers and at the end of the meal when one was entertained to drink. They were preserved in brine, until it was time to consume them when they were drained, pitted, minced with various herbs and honey.

Among the Romans, newly married women, immediately after marriage, anointed the thresholds of their new homes with olive oil, as a symbol of good luck, of light (light, at that time, was obtained thanks to olive oil, used to turn on the lamps).

In the Middle Ages, olive oil lost its importance as a food to be used above all as a cosmetic and medicine.

In the nineteenth century, the production of olive oil suffered a decline in both production and consumption, until it was rediscovered in the second half of the twentieth century as a massive use to find, in recent decades, new law, thanks also to the scientific dissemination that continues to testify to the countless benefits.

Yet, spreading the culture of extra virgin olive oil is never enough. The average consumer still knows little about the difference, for example, of artisanal and industrial oils. Often, even for easier availability in supermarkets (and a reduced cost), industrial oils are preferred that have little or no beneficial properties and sensory characteristics of a high quality EVOO.

Maybe, you don’t know that:

  1. To produce 1 kg of extra virgin olive oil, at least 5 kg of olives are needed;
  2. About 90% of all olives harvested in the world are processed for the production of oil and 10% is used for the production of table olives.
  3. The time of harvest affects the quality of the oil. For example, when the olives are harvested in their initial ripeness (late October, early November), an oil with a fruity flavor is obtained, more bitter and spicy because it is richer in polyphenols, and healthier as it is loaded with antioxidant properties.
  4. Professional tasters, during tasting, use a blue glass in order not to be influenced by the color, which does not determine the quality of the oil.
  5. Olives cannot be consumed directly from the tree, as they contain a very bitter phenolic compound, oleuropein.
  6. The first scholar to express himself on the need to make freshly harvested olives oil, without allowing many hours to pass; the Spanish agronomist and veterinarian Columela was on the invitation not to use the olives that fell from the tree and on the different methods of preparing table olives (in brine or seasoned).
  7. The color of the olives is determined by the ripening time. The longer they are left on the tree, the more they change color, becoming purple and then black.
  8. There are more than 250 varieties of olives all over the world.

PH: Veronica Lavenia

Scientific studies have shown that extra virgin olive oil:

  1. Can help delay or prevent the onset of diabetes, as it balances the insulin levels in the body, decreasing the risk of increasing blood sugar levels;
  2. Contains high amounts of antioxidants (not present in any other type of oil) which strengthen our immune system;
  3. A sip of extra virgin olive oil every evening before bedtime helps people stop snoring.

PH: Veronica Lavenia

Don’t miss:

Knowing Extra Virgin Olive Oil

How to choose the best extra virgin olive oil

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About the author

Veronica Lavenia

PhD (former University academic).
Italian based writer and magazine contributor.
Authors of six books (five cookbooks), some of her works have appeared in the most popular International food magazine, as "Vegetarian Living"; "Veggie Magazine"; "Lifestyle FOOD"; "Australian Good Food & Travel Guide; "Chickpea"; "Gluten free Heaven";" TML", among others.
EVOO Communicator.
Founder of #evoostories and #storiedievo at @veronicalavenia_
Columnist for "The Wolf Post ("EVOO Stories; Food & Wellness; books reviews).