The olive tree is one of the oldest plants in the world. Egyptians, Greeks and Romans tell stories and myths in their literature related to olive and its fruit.
Although the spread of this tree in the Mediterranean can be attributed to the Greeks, the Romans perfected the manufacture and trade. In Rome, there were even real stock market prices to contend with the best olive oil.
Properties and Benefits:
If you squeeze an olive, you derive an oil that has been a symbol since ancient times, of taste and well-being. The olive is the only fruit which allows you to obtain an oil with a single pressing, without any chemical intervention. It is digestible, rich in vitamins A, D, E, K, oleic acid, protects against the excesses of high bad cholesterol and increases the “so-called” good cholesterol. Thanks to its content of antioxidants such as polyphenols, olive oil counteracts the processes that contribute to cellular aging. Oleic acid, the main component of extra virgin olive oil, stimulates the activity of the gallbladder and reduces the danger of the formation of gallstones. Particularly rich in oleocanthal, a natural compound present in virgin olive oils belonging to the polyphenol family, extra virgin olive oil plays an effective anti-inflammatory action. More oil is fresh (ie: more tingles in the throat), the higher the content of this substance. It also is rich in squalene, an organic substance produced in nature, useful to protect from ultraviolet rays of the sun.
The importance of being extra virgin. How to choose a good EVO:
Extra virgin olive oil is a superior category obtained directly from olives. Meeting the parameters set by the law to fall in the category of extra virgin oils, does not automatically mean being a good extra virgin olive oil. Every extra virgin has a quality that varies by origin and price (the more expensive it is, the more the quality increases).
Knowledge makes the difference in every field. For this, having some minimum information about olive oil helps in the selection and its use. An olive oil of low quality (like every product of poor quality) can be detrimental to health.
Choosing oils packaged in dark bottles is preferable to protect against deterioration, caused by excessive exposure to light.
The price plays a key role. A good extra virgin olive oil has a cost necessarily high if we consider the costs of harvesting, plowing, pruning, fertilization, irrigation, transformation.
Frying with EVO:
Extra virgin olive oil is the most digestible fat and, due to its composition of monounsaturated fatty acids and for the presence of components of valuable natural antioxidants, is less subject to alterations and has an exceptional stability in the heat treatment to which it is subjected in the practice of cooking. So, it is the most suitable for cooking because it is very stable at high temperatures and is also suitable for frying (contrary to what is commonly believed). The “smoke point” of the olive oil is superior to that of other fats (the “smoke point” is the temperature at which the oil starts to burn and fats decompose in their main constituents, forming toxic compounds).
The smoke point of the most common fats:
sunflower oil: less than 130° C
soybean oil: 130° C
corn oil: 160° C
peanut oil: 180° C
extra virgin olive oil 210° C
butter: 260° C
(Source: Olio extra vergine di oliva. I valori della tradizione, la cultura della cultura della qualità, (Extra virgin olive oil. The values of tradition, culture, the culture of quality), Enoteca Italiana, Nardini Editore, Italia).