We've gathered a list of some of the most commonly asked questions and facts on olive oil.
Olives: Fruit or Vegetable?
Olives are a fruit, grown on the olive tree, formally known as olea europaea. Olive trees have been cultivated for thousands of years, and were already plentiful during biblical times.
The olive producers in the world include countries that border the Mediterranean Sea (France, Greece, Israel, Lebanon, Italy, Morocco, Portugal, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey), California, South America, and Australia.
California Olive Origins
Olives first arrived in California in the late 18th century, courtesy of the Spanish missionaries. Olive production was a solid industry in California in the 19th century. With the rise in production of canning processes in the early 20th century, table olives reigned over olive oil as the chief olive product (as it still is today.) The last 20 years have seen a shift in a more health-conscious public however, and the demand for olive oil as a healthy alternative to other vegetable oils is on the rise. California olive oil production has doubled in the past 10 years to meet this demand, with an even greater production level forecasted for the next decade.
Direct from the tree, the olive is extremely bitter, and virtually inedible (trust us on this one.) To make them edible, olives are typically cured, either in brine, water or in oil. Or in many cases, they are pressed (crushed) to obtain the juice of the olive, or olive oil.
Imported Olive Oil - All Olive Oil?
Italy exports more olive oil to the United States than to anywhere else. There is an International Olive Oil Council (IOOC) that creates quality guidelines, guarantees authenticity, and promotes olive oil around the world. The United States, unlike all other countries that produce olive oil, does not recognize the guidelines of the IOOC. The U.S. instead goes by USDA guidelines and recognizes four grades of olive oil: Fancy, Choice, Standard, and Substandard. Because the IOCC regulations don't have any meaning in the United States, olive oil importers may slap the "extra-virgin" label on any oil sold in the U.S., even if there aren't any extra virgins in it. The California Olive Oil Councel (COOC) is looking to change this practice. This ensures that when you buy a California-produced olive oil, you are getting some of the world's finest and pure 100% olive oil.
Health Benefits of Olives
Olive oil is high in healthy monounsaturated fats, and can be used in a number of recipes to replace butter or margarine.It has a 10:1 ratio of fatty acids: 10% Omega-6 and 1% Omega-3 fatty acids. Olive oil has 5mg of flavenoid polyphenols for every 10 grams of oil. These polyphenols are natural anti-oxidants that can prevent heart disease, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and reduce the overall effects of aging.
There is more information in great detail at Wikipedia.