Olive oil is a fruit oil obtained from the olive, a traditional tree crop of the Mediterranean Basin. It is commonly used in cooking, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and soaps and as a fuel for traditional oil lamps.
Over 750 million olive trees are cultivated worldwide, about 95% of those in the Mediterranean region. Most of global production comes from Southern Europe, North Africa and Middle East. Of the European production, 93% comes from Spain, Italy, Turkey, and Greece.
In olive oil-producing countries, the local production is generally considered the finest. In North America, Italian and Spanish olive oils are the best-known, and top-quality extra-virgin oils from Italy, Spain and Greece are sold at high prices, often in "prestige" packaging.
Olive oil vendors choose the wording on their labels very carefully.
- "100% Pure Olive Oil" is often the lowest quality available in a retail store: better grades would have "virgin" on the label.
- "Made from refined olive oils" suggests that the essence was captured, but in fact means that the taste and acidity were chemically produced.
- "Light olive oil" actually means refined olive oil, not a lower fat content. All olive oil has 120 calories per tablespoon (34 J/ml).
- "From hand-picked olives" may indicate that the oil is of better quality, since producers harvesting olives by mechanical methods are inclined to leave olives to over-ripen in order to increase yield.
- "First cold press" means that the oil in bottles with this label is the first oil that came from the first press of the olives. The word cold is important because if heat is used, the olive oil's chemistry is changed.
- "Bottled in Italy" or "Packed in Italy" does not necessarily mean that the olive oil originated in Italy. Back or side labels indicate the origin of the olive oil which is often a mixture of oils from several nations.
» Find recipes containing olive oil
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