Olive Oil 101
All over the Mediterranean olives are harvested late September, early October. Unripe green olives are bitter and full of anti-oxidants. As they ripen they turn yellow and are at their peak for oil production. Olives are purple or black when they are fully ripe and oil from this later harvest is sweeter.
Here’s a quick guide to taste and uses.
Olive oil has been at the heart of a healthy Mediterranean diet since 4500BC. Olive oil lowers cholesterol and blood pressure, prevents cancer and is a great anti-inflammatory. Packed with anti-oxidants and full of flavour, olive oil can be drizzled on veggies, sautéing vegetables, frying meats and fish, salad dressings, in sauces like pesto, in baking instead of butter…a thousand different ways.
Really great olive oils have a subtle peppery finish in the back of the throat, caused by olecanthal, an anti-oxidant. The more peppery, the more anti-oxidants and the healthier the oil. The taste depends on the varietal of olive and the timing of the harvest. Unripe olives give a bitter, spicy taste, riper olives deliver a sweeter sensation.
Olive oil spoils with age and when exposed to heat, light and air. Always store in a cool, dark place.
When cooking with olive oil, warm it slowly to preserve the antioxidants.
Spain is the world’s largest producer of olive oil, with Italy next, followed by Greece.