Olives and their oil are some of the oldest foods still being used today. Cultivation of the olive has been traced back to as far as 5000 BC. Not only is olive oil delicious, but being loaded with essential fatty acids and high in antioxidants, it is also incredibly healthy. Below is an explanation of some of the common types of olive oil:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil: is the oil obtained from the first pressing of the olives. It is usually greener than other olive oils and has very low acidity (it may not exceed .8 per cent). It is great for use with dressings, dips and marinades.
Virgin Olive Oil: is obtained from the first pressing of the olives, although is slightly higher in acidity (it may not exceed 2.0%). It is primarily used in cooking, for salads and in marinades.
Olive Oil: consists of a blend of refined oil and virgin oil. The virgin olive oil gives it the flavour that the heat-treated and refined oil lack. Olive oil is a good all around oil, better suited to cooking as it has a slightly higher burning point than the virgin varieties.
Light Olive Oil: is refined oil obtained from the later pressings. Each subsequent press of the olives results in a lighter and less flavourful oil. The term ‘light’ refers only to the colour and flavour and not the caloric content. It is again suitable for frying or sautéing.
Pomace Olive Oil: is oil obtained from the left over olive flesh and pits after being pressed. To release the remaining oil out of the pomace, it is often treated with solvents and heat. The resulting oils are then refined to add flavour and make them fit for human consumption. Pomace olive oil is suitable for frying as it has quite a high burning point but is a lower quality oil.
Early Harvest: refers to the fact that the fruit was picked slightly under ripe. The under ripeness of the olive results in a slightly bitter, peppery oil that is very green. The smaller olives yield less oil and as such early harvest oils often cost more.
Late Harvest: is oil obtained from fully mature olives and results in smooth oil that can be described as sweetish and fruity.
Cold Pressed: refers to the fact that the olives were pressed without the use of heat. Olives that are pressed when heated yield more oil but the heat may destroy some of the delicate flavours that are retained when the olives are cold pressed.