Olive Oil is pressed from the Olive fruit which grows on an Olive tree. The wild Olive tree originates in Asia Minor. Successive civilizations have spread the olive tree over a large area of the world. It reached Greece in about the 14th century BC and in the 6th century BC the Romans introduced the Olive all around the Mediterranean part of the world. After Columbus discovered America the Olive tree spread to the West Indies and the American continent.
Olive oil is the oil obtained from the fruit of the olive tree (called Olea europaea L.).
Virgin olive oils are produced solely by mechanical or other physical means under conditions, particularly thermal conditions, that do not lead to alterations in the oil, and which have not undergone any treatment other than washing, decantation, centrifugation and filtration. There are several categories of olive oils varying in quality and taste. Olive oil connoisseurs talk about Olive Oils in a similar way as wine fans rave about their favorite vintage.
There are two types of olive oil: "huile vierge" (virgin oil) and "pure" oil. Good olive oil (cold pressed from ripe fruit) must have a pale clear color and be absolutely odorless.
Virgin oil is produced by the cold pressing of only first class fruit. This oil is never bleached and always shows its natural color. It is excellent for the making of vinaigrettes and dressings. This fresh and fruity oil combines well with green salads. It is also an excellent base for delicious sauces such as pesto, which is made by mixing olive oil, fresh basil, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese and garlic. Or add that special touch to some warm, crusty bread by spreading it with olive oil, some crushed garlic and tomato isn’t bad either.
Pure olive oil is pressed from both the olive pits and the olive fruit. It is excellent for baking, frying and marinating. The advantage of using olive oil rather than butter or margarine for baking and frying, is that it can be heated to high temperatures without burning. This makes it very suitable for the stir frying of vegetables or meats, chicken or fish. It is important to heat the oil prior to frying as this scalds the outside of product being fried, keeping all the juices contained within and allowing very little fat to absorb. The combination of olive oil and garlic makes a delicious, healthy marinade for many types of food.
Olive oil is probably the most versatile of all oils used in the kitchen. Greece, France, Italy and Spain are the most important producers of olive oil and make up the largest part of the annual world production of 1.5 million tons.