I am passionate about Olives and Olive Oil. I use a lot of it. I try all kinds of brands, and always stop at olive oil stores in every city I visit. Crazy as it sounds, Morry and CJ and I  went to a 3 day Olive Oil Seminar and Tasting in NYC this summer. Famous tasters from around the world judged the best olive oils and gave awards.  As we have educated ourselves about what wine to buy, the next challenge is to educate ourselves about olive oil and eliminate the mystique of which to buy and how to use.  Fun in tasting!

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There are hundreds of varieties of olives (cutlivars), 400 in Italy alone. Taste varies based on soil, climate, time of harvest, and the way it is pressed and filtered. You have to taste it…otherwise you are buying it because of the label…and price is not always the test of how good it is.

Olive oil enhances the flavor of the food, and the choice of which one is up to individual taste. It is the Mediterranean’s lifeblood. The Romans planted olive groves and extended cultivation though out their empire. They invented the prototype of the modern lever press.

Athena, goddess of wisdom, recognized the olive tree as a symbol of abundance, peace, prosperity, longevity, and wisdom. Capable of living 3.000 years, the tree is undemanding and can live in semi arid climates and shallow soil. Olive oil occupies a place in all religions used as lamps in temples and anointing rituals and sacred to Moses, Christ, and Muhammad.

Olive Oil was first used ON the body, to heal, to soften skin and hair, strengthen nails. In 1,000 BC olive oil culinary benefits were discovered. First it added a distinctive taste to cuisine.

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The early history of olive cultivation in California revolved around the Franciscan fathers who planted groves in their missions in 1803. Since 1985 the importing of excellent olive oil from Europe has grown and now award winning California olive oils are focusing on health and nutrition with the growing interest in culinary arts.

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It is found to reduce cholesterol, prevents cardiac disease, eases the pain of arthritis, sooth intestinal disorders. It has vitamin A, D, K, E and therefore slows down the aging process. Olive oil is rich in antioxidants and polyphenols which are powerful aids that can help keep the cardiovascular system flowing and delay the aging cells. It actually lowers blood pressure and raises good cholesterol, HDL. It aids in preventing gall stones.  It improves the appearance of the skin from the inside out. With its health and beauty benefits is is known as ‘LIQUID GOLD’.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil should be used in cooking.  It should have an olive fruity taste ranging from light to medium to intense. Spain produces the most olives and sends many of them to produce olive oil from Italy.  Sardinia and Crete consume the most olive oil per capita (which is why they have more centurions than other countries) about 30-25 liters per year. This compares with Italy and Spain at 13 liters and the US at 1 liter.

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Tips: 

-Sprinkle on lettuce first, then toss 33 times…adding vinegar or lemon juice but not necessary if the olive oil is fabulous.

-The ‘use by’ date is critical.  Once opened it should be used within 60-90 days or it will loose its flavor and become rancid. Light and heat are enemies.

-1 Tbs  daily contains 120 calories.  Mix with 1/2 cup warm water and 1 Tbs apple cider vinegar. The oil lubricates the inside of the body and the vinegar removes the toxins.

-The buttery flavor olive oils can be used in baking cakes and cookies instead of butter.  Many Italian cookies that we all adore are made with olive oil.

-References: Olive Odyssey by Julie Angus and  The Passionate Olive 101 Things to do with Olive Oil by Carol Firenze

International Olive Oil Winners April 2014

My personal favorites are the early harvest olive oils, where they are picked by hand, without blemishes, and have an intense taste that fills your mouth with its peppery bite. The later the harvest the less intense, and each type gives a different flavor to what you are cooking. Yumm!

I am going to focus on California Olive Oils…where the Farm to Table movement is alive and well.  The labeling in the US is more informative than the imported labels, and the faster  it is on our shelf from the grower the freshest and shouldn’t we BUY AMERICAN!???