Olive oil is a fat obtained from the olive (the fruit of Olea europaea; family Oleaceae), a traditional tree crop of the Mediterranean Basin. The oil is produced by pressing whole olives and is commonly used in cooking, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and soaps, and as a fuel for traditional oil lamps. Olive oil is used throughout the world and is often associated with Mediterranean cuisine and diet.
In countries that adhere to the standards of the International Olive Council (IOC), as well as in Australia, and under the voluntary USDA labeling standards in the United States: Extra-virgin olive oil Comes from virgin oil production only, and is of higher quality: among other things, it contains no more than 0.8% free acidity, and is judged to have a superior taste, having some fruitiness and no defined sensory defects. Extra-virgin olive oil accounts for less than 10% of oil in many producing countries; the percentage is far higher in the Mediterranean countries (Greece: 80%, Italy: 65%, Spain 50%).
Virgin olive oil Comes from virgin oil production only, but is of slightly lower quality, with free acidity of up to 1.5%, and is judged to have a good taste, but may include some sensory defects. Refined olive oil is the olive oil obtained from virgin olive oils by refining methods that do not lead to alterations in the initial glyceridic structure. It has a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 0.3 grams per 100 grams (0.3%) and its other characteristics correspond to those fixed for this category in this standard.
This is obtained by refining virgin olive oils with a high acidity level or organoleptic defects that are eliminated after refining. Note that no solvents have been used to extract the oil, but it has been refined with the use of charcoal and other chemical and physical filters. Oils labeled as Pure olive oil or Olive oil are primarily refined olive oil, with a small addition of virgin-production to give taste.
Olive pomace oil is refined pomace olive oil often blended with some virgin oil. It is fit for consumption, but may not be described simply as olive oil. It has a more neutral flavor than pure or virgin olive oil, making it unfashionable among connoisseurs; however, it has the same fat composition as regular olive oil, giving it the same health benefits. It also has a high smoke point, and thus is widely used in restaurants as well as home cooking in some countries.
The olive, known by the botanical name Olea europaea, meaning «european olive». Is a species of small tree in the family Oleaceae, found in much of Africa. The Mediterranean Basin from Portugal to the Levant, the Arabian Peninsula, and southern Asia as far east as China, as well as the Canary Islands, Mauritius and Réunion. The species is cultivated in many places and considered naturalized in all the countries of the Mediterranean coast, as well as in Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Java, Norfolk Island, California and Bermuda.
The olive’s fruit, also called the olive, is of major agricultural importance in the Mediterranean region as the source of olive oil; it is one of the core ingredients in Mediterranean cuisine.
The ancient Greeks used to smear olive oil on their bodies and hair as a matter of grooming and good health.
Olive oil was used to anoint kings and athletes in ancient Greece. It was burnt in the sacred lamps of temples as well as being the «eternal flame» of the original Olympic Games. Victors in these games were crowned with its leaves.
In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus crawls beneath two shoots of olive that grow from a single stock, and in the Iliad, (XVII.53ff). Is a metaphoric description of a lone olive tree in the mountains, by a spring; the Greeks observed that the olive rarely thrives at a distance from the sea, which in Greece invariably means up mountain slopes. Greek myth attributed to the primordial culture-hero Aristaeus the understanding of olive husbandry, along with cheese-making and bee-keeping.
Olive was one of the woods used to fashion the most primitive Greek cult figures, called xoana, referring to their wooden material; they were reverently preserved for centuries. It was purely a matter of local pride that the Athenians claimed that the olive grew first in Athens. In an archaic Athenian foundation myth, Athena won the patronship of Attica from Poseidon with the gift of the olive.
Though, according to the 4th-century BC father of botany, Theophrastus, olive trees ordinarily attained an age of about 200 years. He mentions that the very olive tree of Athena still grew on the Acropolis. It was still to be seen there in the 2nd century AD; and when Pausanias was shown it, c. 170 AD. He reported «Legend also says that when the Persians fired Athens the olive was burnt down…
…but on the very day it was burnt it grew again to the height of two cubits. » Indeed, olive suckers sprout readily from the stump, and the great age of some existing olive trees shows that it was perfectly possible that the olive tree of the Acropolis dated to the Bronze Age. The olive was sacred to Athena and appeared on the Athenian coinage.
Theophrastus, in On the Nature of Plants,
does not give as systematic and detailed an account of olive husbandry as he does of the vine,
but he makes clear that the cultivated olive must be vegetatively propagated; indeed, the pits give rise to thorny, wild-type olives, spread far and wide by birds.
Theophrastus reports how the bearing olive can be grafted on the wild olive
for which the Greeks had a separate name, kotinos.
Olea nigra dulcis
Olea rotunda virida
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