What are the facts about Olive Oil?
What do we mean by Australian Extra Virgin?
Pure, Light and Extra light are terms that are no longer allowed to be used when describing olive oils for sale in Australia. These oils have been “chemically refined” and as such lack the aroma, flavour and natural antioxidants of extra virgin olive oil. The word “light/lite” refers to their light colour, aroma and flavour, not calories.
Australian EVOO is the natural oil (freshly squeezed) from quality olives that have been picked straight off the tree and processed as soon as possible without the use of any chemical, or excessive heat, which ensures that the oils remarkable health benefits, flavour and freshness are maximised.
Australian EVOO’s are renowned for their unique very low level of saturated palmitic acid and high level of mono-unsaturated oleic acid which are highly regarded for its health benefits. In addition to containing natural antioxidants, EVOO has a distinctive olive fruit aroma and flavour which creates a tasty experience for a wide variety of dishes.
EVOO can be intensely flavoured and can also be strongly bitter and pungent. Many ‘early harvest’ styles fit this category. Other oils can be fruity with only hints of bitterness and pepper, while ‘late harvest’ styles are typically mild with very ripe fruity flavours.
How long can I expect my oil to last?
EVOO is best consumed young as it is at this time that its fresh aromas and flavours are at their peak. Unlike wine, olive oil does not mature with age, so the closer to their harvest date that you purchase and use it, the better. However, the higher levels of natural antioxidants and the higher proportion of monounsaturated fats (good fats) generally found in EVOO mean that the oil remains fresher longer than other edible oils. Provided that they are stored properly in a cool, dark place (e.g. pantry), the majority of Australian EVOO’s will retain good flavour aroma and freshness for at least 2 years.
- About 95% of Australian EVOO produced is Extra Virgin quality.
- Olive trees can live for up to 2,000 years.
- Olive trees have been cultivated in Australia since the 1800’s.
- The world needs to plant another 4 million hectares of olive trees to meet the present demand.
- The annual National Olive Industry Conference & Trade Exhibition is where the industry meets to discuss all things olive and to hear about the latest research as well as visit the many companies that supply goods and services to the industry. The venue for the conference changes each year, moving from State to State.
- Olives are a “fruit” – so technically, olive oil is a “fruit juice”
- Due to its health benefits and great moisturising attribute, olive oil has been used in Australian cosmetics, including shampoo, conditioner, body lotions, soaps and hand lotions.
- Almost 10% of Australian groves have organic certification, which represents an increase of 60% since 2006.
- Between 4 and 5 kilos of olives are needed to produce 1 litre of olive oil.
- The tree’s age only affects the quantity of olives produced, not the quality.
- Usually, an olive tree starts to produce between the ages of 3 and 10, and its production starts to decline after it is 100 years old. Different varieties may take longer to produce.
- An olive oils colour does not depend on the variety but on how ripe it is.
- All olives start of green and then become black as they ripen.
- The riper the olive when processed, the more mellow the oil.
- The greener the fruit when processed the high change of a bitter and pungent oil.
- Unripe oils produce less oil than ripe olives.
About 90% of Australian olive oil is produced from 10 major varieties of olives, which include Arbequina, Barnea, Coratina, Corregiola, Frantoio, Koroneiki, Leccino, Manzanillo, Pendolino and Picual. Olive oils contain phytosterols which are well known for their nutritive value which helps with the reduction of cholesterol absorption. Australian olive oils generally have high levels of sterols.
The recognised low levels of free fatty acids (FFA’s) and peroxide value (PV) in Australian EVOO’s indicates the high quality of harvesting, processing and storage.
Olive oils also have 13 other beneficial fatty acids including oleic, palmitic, linoleic and linolenic acids.
Oleic Acid: Oleic acid is named after olive oil (olea). Monounsaturated oleic acid is known to have health benefits. The content of oleic acid in Australian EVOO’s varies significantly and makes up 55% to 85% of olive oil.
Palmitic Acid: This saturated fatty acid provides stability in oils which leads to a longer shelf life. Australian EVOO’s are unique in providing the consumer with oils that produce very low levels of saturated palmitic acid.
Linoleic Acid: Linoleic acid can vary from 3% to 23% depending on different regions and cultivars. Linoleic acid is a polyunsaturated fatty acid that is less stable than saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids. By selecting the fatty acid profile of the oil to suit the purpose, the best outcomes are achieved with the benefit of the optimum, nutritive olive oil.
Linolenic Acid: Linolenic acid is an omega-3 acid, as it is found in fish oil fatty acids EPA and DHA. Linolenic acid is less stable and olive oil has useful levels of this fatty acid.