The History of Olive Oil
In Greek mythology, it was said that Athena, the Goddess of wisdom and peace, struck her magic spear into the Earth and it turned into an olive tree. The “Olea Europaea” became a symbol of wealth, stability, and peace. The Olive Tree produced fruit in which oil was extracted. Originally, this olive oil was a source of fuel to bring light into the darkness of night. It was also used in ancient Greece where athletes rubbed the olive oil all over their bodies to exhibit their muscles showing strength. The branches of the olive tree were woven into wreathes used to crown the winning athletes. In later civilizations, dating back as far as 6,000 years ago, the fruit was traded and olive oil was produced all over the coast of the Mediterranean. It was known as “liquid gold” as it was a valuable commodity in its time and has become a source of many uses for us today.
History of the Olive in California
In the late 18th century, the Spanish Missionaries brought olive cuttings to the missions in California as a source of agriculture. The terrain and climate in California is similar to that of the Mediterranean, making the transition from Europe to the Pacific Coast a successful journey.
Today, health conscious Californians recognize the benefits that the sacred olive tree brings. With the desire for cultural greatness, the old olive groves have been resurrected in our Golden State, producing some of the finest extra virgin olive oils in the industry. Along with food and wine, extra virgin olive oil now joins the ranks in California’s culinary excellence, surprising and surpassing world standards.
Varieties of Olive Oil
The three top olive oil producing countries today are Spain, Italy, and Greece. Each brings different varieties of olives from which olive oil is produced. The variety of the olive and maturity of the fruit brings a unique flavor and quality to the oil. There are also different qualities of olive oil produced, the highest quality being extra virgin.
To be considered “virgin” oil, the process in which the oil is produced needs to be evaluated. The International Olive Council (IOC) has standards that need to be met in order to qualify for this classification. Basically, the oil from the fruit cannot be synthetically treated by using chemicals or heat during the extraction process. The term “first press” means the fruit was crushed exactly one time. There is no “second press” of virgin oil. The term “cold pressed” means the oil has not been heated over 80 degrees fahrenheit during processing which can result in degradation and nutrient loss. In order to meet the IOC’s standards, the olives are picked, pressed, extracted, filtered, and decanted, producing pure and unrefined oil.
The oils are not only tested in a laboratory for chemicals, but also tasted by a trained panel. The panel must find the oil free from defects and determine the fruitiness of the oil. A positive characteristic of the oil would be described as “having pleasant spicy fruit flavors of fresh ripe or green olives.” The variety of the olive will also bring different characteristics to the oil. Oils produced from ripe fruit tend to taste mild, aromatic, buttery, and floral. Oils produced from green fruit can be described as tasting grassy, bitter (in a pleasant way), and peppery.
Also known as “EVOO,” extra virgin olive oil is the purest and highest quality oil available today. To be considered “extra-virgin,” the oil must come from the virgin oil production process mentioned above, contain no more than 0.8% acidity, and be taste tested and judged to have superior taste.
The California Olive Oil Council standards are even more stringent. In order to obtain the COOC Seal of Certification, the olive oil must contain less than 0.5% free fatty acids and has positive taste elements with no defects to be considered Extra Virgin.
Organic Olive Oil
Organic foods are becoming increasingly more popular today. We don’t want to put extra additives or toxins into our bodies. We are more health conscious and living longer and healthier lives. We are more aware of the foods and products we are using today and the impact they have on our environment.
Olive oils that are labeled “Organic” simply means that the oil was produced from olive trees grown in a natural state without the use of synthetic pesticides or chemical fertilizers. The oil processed from the fruit of the tree does not contain genetically modified organisms or food additives and has not been irradiated.
Look for the seal of certification from the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF). The CCOF is one of the most trusted agencies in the organic industry and is also accredited by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Infused Olive Oil
Infusing olive oil with various ingredients can add just enough flavor to liven up a meal and give your taste buds a treat!
- Herb Infused Olive Oil – Fresh herbs such as basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage, and tarragon flavored oils will complement dishes such as pastas, grilled vegetables, soups, salads, soft cheeses, and crusty breads for dipping!
- Citrus Infused Olive Oil – Add a little zest to your salads, vegetables, and seafood dishes with lemon, lime, and blood orange flavored oils.
- Garlic Infused Olive Oil – Aaah, garlic! Roasted garlic, parmesan & garlic, portobello mushroom & garlic, and sun-dried tomato & garlic infused oils will boost the flavor in dishes such as pastas, rice, salads, pizza, steaks, chicken, grilled vegetables, and more!
- Chili-Pepper Infused Olive Oil – Spice up your chicken, steaks, seafood, and pasta dishes with oils flavored with chipotle, jalapeño, and habanero peppers. Turn up the heat in your soups, sauces, and salsa. That’s HOT!
Specialty Olive Oil
- Do I smell bacon? That’s right, bacon olive oil is available without the saturated fat. Add this oil to your breakfast potatoes or enjoy it drizzled over your warm spinach salad.
- Butter flavor, guilt free! Replace butter with the heart healthy butter flavored olive oil. It’s perfect for sautéing veggies, making shrimp scampi, and spritzing over your popcorn!
- Gourmet delight! Truffle olive oil is a wonderful way to incorporate the unique taste of truffles without the cost. Add this oil to enhance your pasta, rice, mushroom, and poultry dishes.
Olive Oil Benefits
Clinical data shows that the consumption of olive oil (in moderation) may provide many health benefits. Olive oil is a healthy addition to our diet that adds Monounsaturated Fats and Omega-3 fatty acids to help lower bad cholesterol and keep our hearts healthy. Olive oil also has Antioxidants to help fight off free radicals that attack our bodies daily. Please read more about olive oil benefits on our Health and Beauty Page!