Photo credit: Jamie Dobson
Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is the main key of the Mediterranean diet. It has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, it lowers your cholesterol levels and protects against many diseases such as cardiovascular diseases. Extra virgin olive oil is free of cholesterol and carbohydrates. Read about Olive oil facts and uses here if you like. Extra virgin olive oil is a high-quality olive oil, that during its production there are no chemicals used and it has to undergo various tests that confirm its taste and quality. Extra virgin means that the oil is practically the juice that comes out of the first pressing of the olives. It has to be perfect and free from any kind of defects. The problem is that there is a large number of extra virgin olive oil bottles on our supermarket shelves that is not of a good quality or it is not even an extra virgin.
Italy, Tunisia, Spain and Greece are the world’s biggest olive oil producers and considered to produce the world’s best extra virgin olive oils. Because of the high demand of extra virgin olive oil of high quality the possibility of fraud increases. You should read carefully the labels, “Bottled in Italy” it’s not the same as “Produced in or by”, but even if it is produced in a nominated place it doesn’t mean that the olives were harvested in that precise place, so there are lots of tricks used by some producers to sell their EVOO as for example “Italian high-quality EVOO”, but at the end it has nothing to do with Italy and Italian olives.
Always buy certificated organic extra virgin olive oil with green and white organic logo. On the label, you should see the type and provenance of olives that the oil was made of, where it was produced and the year of production. Because it is not important only where and how the oil was made, the important thing is also from where do the olives come from. Usually on the back of the bottle you will find the “Harvest date” and the “Best by” date, take them in consideration too.
Remember that the extra virgin olive oil is best if used within a year after its production, not after packaging.
Although you can use it sometimes even after the expiration date, for frying and cooking, taste it first, if it’s rancid do not use it. The laws in Europe, for example, say that the expiration date has to be max 18 months after packaging, not the production. Extra virgin olive oil is a juice made by pressing of the olives, and as any other fruit juice it is best if consumed as soon as possible.
The price is an important factor too because you won’t find a bottle of high quality organic extra virgin olive oil for 3 – 5 €. The price of extra virgin olive oil of good quality should be around 7 € per 1 l and the price of high-quality extra virgin olive oil should be around 8 – 10 € for 0.50 l and 10 – 13 € for 0,75 l. High price does not mean every time high quality, but when we talk about olive oil, just like wine, the price usually corresponds to quality.
Another important thing is that the bottle of EVOO needs to be dark and preferably made of glass, absolutely not made of plastic and you need to put it in a dark place, away from the heat. If packaged in clear bottles, the light just as much as air will ruin the oil that will begin to oxidize, deteriorates and becomes rancid.
Extra virgin olive oil must have the aroma of green olives, it has a fruity, herbaceous aroma of fresh cut grass. It has to be a bit bitter and spicy, these characteristics come from polyphenols that protect the oil from oxidation.
So, find your favorite high-quality extra virgin olive oil and make your recipes even more delicious and healthy. Extra virgin olive oil in the last decade is a subject of many studies that have shown its important role in protecting us from many potentially fatal diseases. So buy this great ally of your health and enjoy its wonderful aroma. But remember, choose wisely.
Great article! I think reading carefully the labels helps, but unfortunately we cannot always rely on them.