In our deeply divided world, there is one thing we all can agree on, olive oil is one of the best things humans ever discovered. It rightfully holds the title of liquid gold, has never gone out of fashion or ever been challenged as the queen of oils. It will probably stay a timeless classic until the end of time.
What exactly is olive oil?
Here is a mind blowing fact, the olive oil is technically an olive juice. It's collected from the fruit of the olive, not its seed. Surprising, right?
Olive harvest begins in early November and extends, in some regions, to late February in the northern hemisphere, and April through June in the southern hemisphere. Each producing country has different producing regions, varieties, and preferences as to harvest time and style. No two seasons in any area are identical. Many varieties alternate in productivity; a year of high productivity is followed by a year of scarcity.
When olives are ripe, the clock starts ticking. The farmers have 24-48 hours from the moment they pick the olive to the moment it has to be pressed.
Does the country of production matter?
When it comes down to it, everything about the location the olive was grown matters. From the type of soil to the air humidity, everything will affect the flavour profile. That’s why two producers from the same region might have completely different tasting oils from the same year’s harvests. However, unless you’re a true olive oil enthusiast, those taste notes won’t make that big of a difference.
Instead, here is a rule of thumb, pick a variety or a profile that you like and stick to it. It’s like with chocolate - if you prefer dark chocolate over white, does the country of origin truly make any difference to you?
That being said, countries do have a tendency to pick a couple of dominant varieties. Those varieties tend to represent the “style” of the country. Other factors are also at play, for example, historical and cultural heritage or indigenous olives varieties from certain geographical regions.
Spain, being the biggest producer of olive oil, mostly focuses on Picual, Hojiblanca, and Arbequina olives. For Italy, it’s the Coratina, for Greece the Koroneiki, and for France the Picholine.
Does it matter how I store my olive oil?
The last but not least important thing to remember is that you have to store the oil properly.
Usually the producers will identify the date of packaging or the expiry date. The shelf life for an olive oil is usually around 2 years before opening it.
Never, and I mean never, leave the oil under the direct sunlight or above the stove. It will make it go bad faster. Heat, sun and oxygen are olive oil's worst enemies. Choose dark glass or metal tins since they do a better job at protecting the oil.
NEXT WEEK’S BLOG: Taste profiles of olive oil