About Olive Oil (and Extra Virgin Olive Oil - EVOO)
Why is Olive Oil Good for You?
It contains an abundance of good fatty acids - omega 3 and omega 6. These omegas are a key part of staying healthy.
It also contains phenolic acid. This is a natural anti-oxidant.
These 'good' fats are often linked in academic studies to healthy hearts. Whilst healthy joints help keep us active with the cardiovascular benefits this brings.
What are the different types of olive oil?
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (also know as EVOO) is the best - by far - of all the oils. It is extracted manually without heat or chemicals.
Serriana is an Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Olive Oil (without the extra) is next best - but now heat and chemicals are used to extract the remaining oils (plus, sometimes, some Extra Virgin is added to help improve the product). So, its a mix.
Next up is 'Refined Olive Oil' - this is often sold as mild or light! Any health benefits are now uncertain...
Lastly, there is 'Pomace Olive Oil' - which is best avoided, although some food manufacturers do use it to preserve goods.
Find out how to buy olive oil here.
How do you know that an Olive Oil is high quality?
Firstly, is it 'extra virgin'. If so, then is must have a tested free acidity below 0.8%. Our 2022 Serriana oil from the Sierra Espadan has a measured free acidity level of 0.55%. This is well below the maximum amount.
Secondly, it must be cold / mechanically pressed. And, ideally, milled on the same morning that it is harvested.
In our region in Eastern Spain, this harvest normally takes place during the first week of November. In November, the weather is cooler and the olives retain their freshness for longer.
Thirdly, how does it smell? A rich aroma indicates that the olive is both high quality and that the milling and bottling process has preserved this most delicate feature.
Fourthly, how does it taste? Is it smoky, thick and buttery? Or greasy, runny and pale? The former is great, the latter, less so.
The Mediterranean Diet
Is Olive Oil a Key Ingredient of the Mediterranean Diet?
Absolutely. It is probably THE key ingredient to the Mediterranean diet.
Why is that?
Because great olive oil makes or finishes many healthy recipes. Also many of these dishes can be served raw, to which you also add delicious olive oil.
For instance, imagine a plate of tomato and mozzarrella cheese with a generous slug of Serriana EVOO to finish it off? It is essential, isn't it?
Check out more of the olive oil recipes here.
Can you swap butter for olive oil?
Yes, you can. There is very little butter in a healthy Mediterranean Diet.
The butter to oil ratio to use - if following a recipe - is 2/3rds. That is, 15 grams or ounce of butter are swapped for 10 grams or ounces of olive oil.
Of course, the best olive oil is extra virgin - like Serriana. Not only is it great for health but it tastes amazing too.
How to Store and Protect EVOO
How long does olive oil last?
Olive oil has a 'use by date' of 1 year from the date it was bottled. Note, this is not the day you buy the oil, but the day it was bottled or canned.
Can I safely keep olive oil in a clear bottle?
For a short period only! Better still, use a dark or terracotta bottle as this protects it from light. However, it is quite stable and so it can survive short periods (a few weeks) in a clear bottle. Remember to keep the clear bottle in a cupboard to extend its life significantly.
Why does olive oil need to be kept in a cool location?
Heat (above 30 degrees centigrade) and cold (near or below freezing) will damage olive oil. This is the biggest risk to maintaining quality. Hence, don't leave it outside on a very hot or very cold day. Nor store it in a shed. But somewhere inside.
How is EVOO stored in the olive mills?
Olives are harvested and milled in late October / early November in the Mediterranean basin. Then, the mill will store the olive oil in large separate tanks below ground in a highly protected environment. Here, the highest quality Serriana oil or EVOO will be kept in one tank and the lower quality oils, will be kept in a different tank.
In other words, it is stored in dark location with moderate temperatures. That is, neither too hot, nor too cold. It can remain here for a good length of time. Also, it is kept away from air. Only when bottled does it acquire a one year use by expiry date.
How Is Olive Oil Produced?
Where does the best Olive Oil come from?
Spain is the world's largest producer . It produces over 50% of the world's oil. Italy and Greece are also big producers and so is Morocco.
There is good evidence that the best Olive Oil comes from traditional olive groves in mid mountain locations.
So what is a 'traditional olive grove'? Typically, one that has been farmed for hundreds of years and is of medium intensity. The trees need space between them to prevent disease and pests multiplying.
What makes an olive grove a great olive grove?
Location. Yes, the location of the olive grove matters.
Ideal olive groves in the Spanish Mid Mountains are found at, typically, between 300 and 600m in altitude. And within 70 or 80km from the Mediterranean.
This ideal location means that the trees benefit in three key ways.
Firstly, from winters cold enough to kill bugs and diseases.
Secondly, a mountainous region that has natural spring waters to irrigate the trees.
And thirdly, sufficient proximity to the cooling summer breezes from the Mediterranean to survive high summer temperatures.
How do you tell the difference between Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Virgin Olive Oil and just Olive Oil?
Extra virgin olive oil will have a measured level of free oleic acid of no more than 1%
Virgin olive oil, will have a free oleic acid level of between more than 1% and less than 3.3%
Olive oil, will have a free oleic acid level of 3.3% or greater.
Essentially, the greater the level of oleic acid, the higher levels of impurities.
For instance, cold press olive oil, harvested and milled in the same morning and kept cool during the process (which is how Serriana Olive Oil is produced), will have a lower level of acid than oils treated differently.
You will notice a different taste and flavour between these different oils.
A poorer oil will also show fewer good fats and phenolic acid.
Eating and Cooking with Olive Oil
How do I cook with Olive Oil?
Can I bake with Olive Oil?
Yes. More and more people are swapping butter for EVOO in their baking as well of frying.
If you bake with olive oil, use 2gs of olive oil to replace 3gs of butter. In other words, the amount of olive oil is 2/3s the amount of butter.
Can I drink Olive Oil raw?
Yes, you can.
Extra Virgin Olive oil (EVOO) is often used as a raw ingredient, typically, poured onto salads and soups or even toast.
Eating or drinking raw EVOO means that heat hasn't affected any of the beneficially health properties. However, even cooked EVOO retains many benefits - especially if it is replacing other fats such as butter or lard.
EVOO and Lemon Juice 'Viagra'?
Can you combine Olive Oil with lemon juice to create a sort of 'viagra'?
Yes, you can combine olive oil with lemon juice and drink it raw. This is a heck of a health kick. And, not least during winter when our vitamin C levels need an extra boost.
Indeed, it is notable that lemons, along with oranges and tangerines, ripen during the winter months in the Mediterranean basin. Which, like so much of nature, is when our bodies need extra vitamin C.
But is there any evidence that Olive Oil combined with Lemon Juice is a sort of 'viagra' and an aid for men with Erectile Disfunction?
No. There is no direct scientific proof, but a good and healthy diet and lifestyle does help men. And, olive oil and lemons can play an important role in providing that healthy diet.
The Science of Olive Oil and Olive Tree Carbon Capture
How do Olive Trees capture carbon?
Firstly, you can read a full post about how olive trees capture carbon here.
However, the answer can be summarise very quickly as follows. Olive trees use photosynthesis to grow. In this process the carbon (C) from Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is absorbed and oxygen (O) is released.
How does 1 litre of Olive Oil Capture 10kg of Carbon
Firstly, you can read in detail how 1 litre of olive oil equates to 10kg of carbon capture here.
However, the answer can be summarised as follows:
A cultivated olive tree produces about 4 litres of olive oil per year. And we estimate that an olive tree in Spain will capture 57kg of carbon each year. This estimate is based on a typical olive tree's growth rate (trunk circumference).
The bigger the trunk, the bigger the roots, the greater amount of carbon captured.
Now we have to net off the carbon costs of pruning (loss of leaves and small branches), harvesting, milling the olives, packaging and delivery of the oil.
Hence, after harvesting and packaging, we conclude that each litre of Serriana olive oil that you buy supports the capture of at least 10kg of carbon.
But, does an Olive Tree really capture carbon?
Carbon capture is considered to have taken place when the carbon is secure and stable. For instance, coal and oil are forms of carbon which have been captured.
Obviously, when these materials get burnt, they release all that saved carbon. Likewise with olive trees.
However, if we protect olive trees, principally by cultivating them and paying farmers a fair wage to care for them - then the carbon stored stays stored. And each year, the olive tree grows and captures more carbon.
It is up to us to decide whether coal in the ground or olive trees with roots in the soil are more stable and secure. If we look after our olive tree farmers, they will look after the olive trees. And that will keep the carbon stored.
About Olive Trees
How much olive oil does a typical Olive Tree produce, per year?
Typically, an olive tree will produce between 3 and 5 litres of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) per year.
Olive trees vary in their production. Sometimes a particular variety, such as Serrana, will have a full harvest only every other year. The other factors affecting production are levels of sunlight, excessive heat, hail damage to the spring flowers, availability of water, altitude and intensity of production as well as quality of soil.
However, olive trees grown in the Mediterranean basin produce 3 to 5 litre of extra virgin olive oil per year, on average.
How many kilos of Olives make 1 litre of Olive Oil?
A litre of extra virgin olive oil typically uses 5 to 6kg of olives.
How long can an Olive Tree live?
Olive trees can live for thousands of years. Although, in later years they tend to produce less fewer olives and are maintained for their beauty and ability to support soil health and diversity (they often make great nests for birds).
On the east coast of Spain it is common to find 'monumental' olive trees that were planted during Roman times. Equally, on walks through the east coast mountains you will find groves of 'millennium olive trees'. These trees typically date from the 18th or 19th Century.