Olive oil is a vegetable oil obtained from olives (Olea europaea) by pressing or other mechanical processes. It is mainly used in the food, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. Olive oil is a typical component of Mediterranean cuisine. Consumption of olive oil is considered to be beneficial to health because it contains monounsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E.
95% of all olive trees, and therefore the majority of total olive oil production, come from the Mediterranean region. The three largest producers in the world are Spain, Italy and Greece, with Turkey and Morocco rounding out the top five.
The olive tree has been growing in Greece for over 10,000 years, according to Homer, who even called olive oil liquid gold. Ancient records mention the use of olive oil for medicinal purposes, body care, cleaning, perfume making and, last but not least, for lighting. Even the famous ancient physician Hippocrates used this 'liquid gold' to treat his patients.
In ancient Greek temples, olive oil was burned in sacred lamps. People believed that olive branches and olive oil had the ability to protect them from evil spirits and prolong their lives. This belief gave rise to the ancient ceremony of anointing kings and high priests with oil. The reverence for olive oil is evidenced by the fact that men who won athletics competitions in Athens were rewarded with a jar of olive oil.
It takes 5 to 6 kilograms of olives to produce 1 litre of olive oil. The olives on the olive tree only ripen when they are 10 to 15 years old. After 100 to 150 years, the quantity of olives on the tree gradually begins to decrease, but the age of the olive tree affects only the quantity of olives ripening, not their quality.
The best quality oil is obtained from olives that already contain a sufficient quantity of oil but are not yet perfectly ripe (these ripe fruits are more prone to rot and fallen fruit is also unusable for this type of oil). The most important thing is therefore to estimate the right time for harvesting.
The most ideal method is to pick the fruit by hand directly from the tree - but this is a time-consuming, labour-intensive and therefore financially expensive method. Another factor determining the quality of the oil is its acidity. The olives should be as undamaged as possible, no other matter (twigs, leaves, etc.) should be introduced into the processing and the olives should be processed as soon as possible after harvesting to prevent any mould or fermentation. This is followed by the cleaning stage. Firstly, to remove foreign matter and secondly, in a water bath, for example, to remove dirt, etc. The fruit thus cleaned, including the stone, is ground to a paste as fine as possible, which should not be subject to oxidation. The paste must be mixed with the liquid which has separated during milling. This process is carried out by stirring at a temperature of around 25 Â°C.
The whole mass is then subjected to centrifugation, which separates the solids from the liquid. The final step is the separation of the oil from the water and the subsequent bottling of the pure oil into stainless steel tanks, where the oil is stored at a temperature of around 15 Â°C without access to air. Since olive oil oxidises in the light, it must be sold and stored in dark bottles.
The acidity of olive oil means the quality of the fruit and the flawlessness of the processing. If the olives are damaged during harvesting, they undergo a chemical reaction that produces free fatty acids. This is the same process that occurs when olives are overripe (producers press more oil from overripe olives). Long-term storage of olives also causes this undesirable process. In simple terms, olive oils with higher acidity can be made from rotten or otherwise poor quality olives. For the above reason, it is important that olive oil is produced with extreme care and attention. This is the only way to produce quality olive oil.
Interestingly, however, if you want to improve your immunity, gums and teeth, contribute to the overall detoxification of your body, or get better breath in the morning, you don't actually have to eat olive oil. One of the traditional practices that work like a small miracle is the daily "bark", in which you take a sip of olive oil in your mouth (you need to spit out the saliva thoroughly beforehand) and hold the liquid in your mouth, occasionally rolling it around with your cheeks and tongue, for about fifteen to twenty minutes before spitting it out. This seems like a lot of time, but considering that it is not a problem to take a shower, clean the kitchen or make the children's lunch for school during this time, it is not that much. Olive oil not only absorbs the toxins that have "leached" into the oral cavity during the night, but it also nourishes our entire body. Smokers praise the fact that the obligatory morning cough disappears with long-term practice with olive oil, and those who suffer from periodontitis notice a significant improvement.
A number of medical studies confirm that the longest living people in Europe are Cretans. They live to an enviably old age, even though they smoke more than is customary in Western Europe, and are sometimes closer to a glass of ouzo than is healthy. And so the classic Cretan diet, which the islanders have been eating unchanged for a couple of thousand years, is becoming a worldwide fashion.
Greek cuisine is very tasty and healthy, and Cretan cuisine is considered the healthiest in the Mediterranean. The basis of the Cretan diet is bread, white goat's or sheep's cheese 'feta' (the most similar to Balkan cheese), vegetables, olives, fruit and above all olive oil, which is the most important ingredient. You can find it in large doses in almost any dish. The Greeks are true champions in its consumption, ranking first in the world. Cretans have an incredibly high consumption of olive oil. Twenty-five litres of olive oil are consumed annually per capita.
Olive oil is also used in Crete to treat skin diseases. The Cretans themselves claim that olive oil helps with everything from childhood colic to old age debility.
Olive oil is simply that miraculous Cretan elixir of life. Extra virgin olive oil is increasingly recommended as part of a healthy and balanced diet.