An Updated International Perspective on Olive Oil

Olive oil is a staple in most kitchens – and should be in yours as well! Enjoy updated information on olive oil as well as healthy cooking with olive oil based upon a recent visit to Spain.

I was in Seville, Spain recently. It is the largest city in Andalusia. Spain happens to be the highest producer of olive oil. In fact, 75% of the olive oil produced in Spain is from the Andalusia region. When you take the train from Madrid to Seville, you will see an infinite number of olive trees lining the landscape.

Spain is known for gastronomy and its olive oil plays an integral role as one of the great ingredients in Spanish cooking. Besides the amazing taste, it has tremendous health benefits like boosting heart health, decreasing stroke risk, fighting inflammation, cancer prevention, and many more.

While in Seville, I had the opportunity to visit the Basilippo farm to learn more about Spanish extra virgin olive oil and how it is made. Here are some things that I came away with:

  • Early harvest occurs in October to November. Olives are green at this time.
  • The harvesting method used to pick olives from the tree plays a big role in the quality and taste of the oil. Hand picking the olives tends to yield the best olive oil. Rakes and long wooden sticks are also used, but in general, the gentler the method, the better the olive oil. Why? Because, bruising of the olives lead to oxidation of the olives which results in a poorer taste of the oil and loss of health benefits.
  • Once picked, the olives should be processed as quickly as possible (within 72 hours) otherwise they start to ferment quickly which will affect the taste and quality of the oil. In fact, this particular farm I was at got the harvested olives to the mill within 4-5 hours.

Some things to look for on an extra virgin olive oil bottle:

  • Make sure that it is in a dark colored glass bottle or in a tin container.
  • Look for “cold first pressed” – Olive oil that’s first cold pressed maintains the most antioxidants.
  • Look for the harvest date and keep in mind that the oil is good for about 12-18 months from this date.
  • Always store it in a cool, dark place. Never keep it next to the stove.

The controversy – is olive oil good for cooking , especially deep frying?

  • In Spain, Italy, Greece, and many other southern European Countries, olive oil is the oil of choice for cooking and deep frying.
  • Its smoke point is somewhere between 375-405 degrees F.
  • Many studies show that when olive oil is exposed to high heat, it does not form harmful compounds.
  • In fact, oil from the picual olives is the best for frying as it has a higher smoke point.
  • Another benefit of frying with olive oil is that unlike many other oils, it can be reused again for frying.
  • And most importantly, there is low absorption of the oil leading to a less greasy taste!

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