Everything You Need to Know About Olive Oil
Your Guide to Olive Oil
Origin & History of Olive Oil
Shimmery, golden olive oil is essentially a fruit juice made from olives. The olive was native to Asia Minor. It spread from Iran, Syria and Palestine to the rest of the Mediterranean basin 6,000 years ago. It is among the oldest cultivated trees in the world. Its cultivation originated before written language. The deliberate production of olive oil began around 2500 BCE.
The Phoenicians spread the olive to the Mediterranean shores of Africa and Southern Europe. Olives have been found in Egyptian tombs dating to 2000 BCE. Olive culture traveled to the Greeks, and on to the Romans. The Greeks used the oil to anoint their kings and winning athletes. Many cultures used the oil to anoint the dead. As the Romans carried the olive with them as they conquered and expanded.
Throughout the history of the Mediterranean region, the olive played a fundamental role in culture. It was present in the arts, trade, technology, and the economy, and it was a symbol of wealth, fame and peace. Hippocrates believed that olive oil possessed natural healing powers. He was the first known medical practitioner to use olive oil-based ointments to treat wounds and traumas. By the Middle Ages, the oil continued to reveal new curative properties. It became a well-known remedy for sore throats, cuts, and bruises. With its many uses, olive oil was a part of daily life, and along with the olive, was a staple of the diet.
Christian colonizers brought olive trees, along with grapes, to California for food and ceremonial use. In the past several hundred years the olive has spread to North and South America, Japan, New Zealand, and Australia.
Nutrition & Health Benefits of Olive Oil
What do we know about the curative and dietary benefits of olive oil today? A lot. However, as with many well-loved foods, olive oil (and dietary fats in general) is highly controversial. There are loads of studies often and varied outcomes. However, many indicate that the fatty acids and antioxidant content offer some powerful health benefits.
There are three main grades of olive oil: refined, virgin, and extra virgin (EVOO). Extra virgin is the least processed and healthiest. It’s extracted using natural methods and standardized for purity and certain sensory qualities like taste and smell.
EVOO contains modest amounts of vitamins E and K, plenty of beneficial fatty acids, and shines in its antioxidant content.
The oil’s main antioxidants include the anti-inflammatory oleocanthal, as well as oleuropein, a substance that protects LDL (bad) cholesterol from oxidation. Results of a 2017 study suggested that the polyphenols in EVOO may offer protection from cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis, stroke, brain dysfunction, and cancer. Polyphenols are a type of antioxidant.
Best Ways to Use Olive Oil
We may not use olive oil to anoint athletes or deceased humans anymore, but there are still plenty of great uses for it. Here are some of our favorites.
Use it for dipping a crusty baguette. Stay simple with a high-quality EVOO, or get creative and add salt, fresh ground pepper, chopped rosemary, balsamic vinegar, and any other preferred herbs or spices.
One of the tastiest ways to use olive oil is on cheese. All you need is a plate full of delicious cheeses and then top them with olive oil. Hard cheeses like parmesan and pecorino are ideal. If you want to add a little spice, grate some fresh pepper on top too.
Add it to your skincare routine. Lather it straight on for moisturizer. Or you can mix a drizzle with some coffee grinds for a moisturizing and exfoliating scrub. Don’t let your kitchen waste go to waste.
Drizzle it on your ice cream. Wait, what? Trust us and give it a try! Vanilla ice cream is great with olive oil and sea salt. Or get fancy with chocolate ice cream, add a teaspoon or two of port wine, and top it off with olive oil and fresh figs.
Olive Oil Producers on Our Platform
In the province of Jaén, 66 million olive trees generate oxygen for 3 million people every day. Situated among them is Mergaoliva, a traditional family business. It is Mergaoliva’s goal to produce a quality product and share the cultural heritage of the olive in the process. They select and harvest olives in specific ripening stages. They value soil and tree health, immediate transport of olives, and a cold extraction method.
Mer Des Oliviers de Delphes is a family-owned operation in Amfissa, Delphi. Vasilis Kanatas inherited 2,500 trees from his father, who used to sell his olives in Athens and other parts of Greece. Today, his grandchildren produce a variety of olive pastes, soaps, and more—all grown, processed, and packaged in Delphi. Their groves are the oldest in Greece and among the oldest on the planet. Mer Des Oliviers de Delphes’ methods have changed very little over the centuries.
Turkish couple Taha and Duygu Elakdar, founded Hic together. It is the first company to introduce Turkish extra virgin olive oil to the global market. Captivated by Urla’s rich history and the natural flora along the Aegean coast, Duygu became an agricultural activist. In 2012, she moved to the mountainous Aegean Coast of Urla. There, she devoted herself to organic farming, sustainable agriculture, and renewable energy. Using these skills, Hiç delivers high-quality oils. Over 60,000 olive trees flourish, along with herbs, plants and fruit, in a spectacular olive forest. The Aegean winds blow in from two sides, helping Hic create robust and flavorful products. In addition to quality, the brand is devoted to supply chain transparency.
Most of the producers in our network share the goal to impart their rich olive heritage with the world. In consuming these products, we get a taste of Mediterranean cultures along with our antioxidants.
Fun Olive Oil Facts:
- In his famous work “The Ilead,” Homer coined the term “liquid gold” to describe olive oil.
- Crowns of olive branches cut with a golden knife were given to athletes during the Olympic Games.
- 1,400 years ago the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad, used the oil on his head and advised his followers to apply it to their bodies.
- The olive trees on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem are reputed to be over 2,000 years old.
Have a look at these and other extra virgin olive oil producers in our network here. But beware, they’ll have you aching for the Mediterranean.