Used in everything from dressings to dip, olive oil is a staple that no kitchen should be without. While we might take it for granted, there is actually a lot to consider when purchasing and using this healthy oil. With a little help from books like Peggy Knickerbocker's Olive Oil: From Tree to Table and Cat Cora’s Kitchen by Gaea, we've compiled some fun facts about this essential ingredient — a few may surprise you!
- Olive trees thrive in Mediterranean climates, and especially in locations like Spain, North Africa, Italy, Greece, and California.
- The term "cold-pressed" signifies that no heat was applied during the process of extracting the fruit's juices.
- Olive oil that's not labeled "extra-virgin" is likely a combination of extra-virgin oils and refined virgin oils. While less nuanced in flavor, it's a solid choice for dishes that involve high heat cookery, but should be avoided as a finishing oil, in salad dressing, and the like.
For more olive oil fun facts, keep reading.
- For any Mediterranean oil to qualify as "extra-virgin," it must be made from the mechanical extraction of olives, be cold-pressed, exhibit an acidity level of less than 1 percent, and possess a superior taste.
- Oils from different regions tend to have different flavor profiles. For example, Tuscan oils are known for being bold and peppery, while oils from Provence are light and fruity.
- Olive oil may be used in place of butter in most recipes; for each teaspoon of butter, substitute 3/4 teaspoon olive oil.
- To store your olive oil, keep it in a cool, dry place that's shielded from direct light. We recommend storing bulk oil in old red wine bottles, as the green glass filters out light and increases its longevity. If possible, buy olive oil in smaller quantities and replenish your stock often — like many food products, it's perishable.
- Don’t put too much weight in the oil's hue. High-quality oil can come in a range of shades, from vivid green to gold to pale straw. That said, statistically, vibrantly green extra-virgin olive oil is likely fresher and therefore higher quality.