Where does the olive oil come from and how is it pressed?
Olive oil – a product so common that each of us had it in our hands at least once in our lives. We all associate it with its appetizingly saturated colour and characteristic sharpness in taste. However, few people know what the secret of its uniqueness is. And it is deeply rooted because it found its place in the lives of ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians. So what exactly is it, and why is it so important to us?
Olea Europea, the tree from which the main character of today’s post is created, is an unusual plant. Widespread, mainly in the Mediterranean regions, it reaches a height of up to 12 m and bears fruit for the first time at 4-5 years. Its uniqueness lies in its longevity and endurance. It is an evergreen tree, survives even in an arid climate, and can live up to 1000 years!
Pressing process step by step
The harvest of pressing olives begins in the fall, and the process itself requires precision and quite demanding standards. The fruits are very delicate – after falling from the branches, they quickly oxidize and absorb aromas from the ground like a sponge. This makes it impossible to press out good-quality oil, so only olives harvested straight from the tree are used for its production. And the entire pressing process takes place a maximum of a few hours later. This prevents the fruit from absorbing the outside aromas and oxidizing the fats. The olives are first carefully washed and peeled from the leaves.
The next step is to crush and blend to make it easier to separate the juice from the pure fat. At this stage, the temperature should not exceed 27 degrees Celsius not to destroy its properties. In the past, the fruit was crushed by hand. Current technology allows for more efficient machine crushing, although mills still traditionally produce olive oil. The fruit pulp then goes to a special centrifuge, separating the water phase from the oil phase. Next, the oil phase is subjected to two-stage filtration in order to remove fruit remnants. And then, if it passes all laboratory and organoleptic tests – it is bottled as a finished product. Finally, the rest of the water is used to irrigate crops, which is an excellent move in terms of environmental protection and the principle of less waste.
From 500 kg of fruit, we get nearly 60 litres of olive oil! The entire process of machine oil pressing takes a very short time, as it is only 50 minutes. However, it requires attention to every detail – one wrong move and the product is not suitable for sale. Therefore, when choosing the best product, it is worth paying attention to the information about pressing. Unrefined virgin olive oil is guaranteed to preserve all its health benefits.
Olive oil ingredients
The olive oil itself is almost as delicate as its fruit. The chlorophyll it contains is very sensitive to sunlight. For this reason, it is bottled only in dark glass containers, and the best storage method is a cool, closed cabinet. Nevertheless, it is worth taking care of it to keep all its benefits. In addition to many unsaturated fatty acids (which is as much as 86%), we also find about 230 substances that have been shown to support the proper functioning of the body. The most important are antioxidants, phenolic compounds, squalene, sterols, carotenoids and the vitamin bomb such as A, D, E and K.
Antioxidants are an exceptionally effective preservative, thanks to which the oil is highly resistant to rancidity and, if properly stored, it retains its freshness for a long time. An important role of antioxidants in our diet is the removal of free radicals responsible for the ageing of the body’s cells. As a result, we can enjoy health and a youthful appearance for longer. Antioxidants also protect us against viruses and bacteria, increasing immunity and reducing the risk of infection.
Squalene, sterols and vitamin E effectively block the multiplication of cancer cells. Olive oil has been shown to support the functioning of the circulatory system and prevent atherosclerosis, and is an effective ally in the prevention of thrombosis, diabetes, digestive system diseases and is safe for people suffering from liver and gallbladder problems. Carotenoids and lutein are solid allies for healthy eyesight. The aforementioned excess of unsaturated fatty acids is used almost throughout the body, rom supporting the brain’s work through healthy energy for everyday functioning to properly built membranes of all our cells.
The ratio of monounsaturated to polyunsaturated fatty acids is neutral, so regardless of the amount consumed, we will not lead to an unhealthy excess of any of them. Without reason, the Mediterranean diet, of which large amounts of oil are a permanent element, has been recognized as the healthiest way of eating for humans. And people who use it enjoy good health throughout their lives.
The use of olive oil in the kitchen
It has unlimited use in the preparation of dishes, from using it in its pure form to using it as a semi-finished product when creating side dishes for dinner. It is a great boost to the taste of a dish, and it is worth adding it to all kinds of vegetables and salads. Because some vitamins are soluble only in fats, we will absorb more vitamins thanks to sprinkling olive oil on our vegetable salad than by eating raw vegetables. It is an excellent base for sauces and dressings, exemplified by the famous yet delicious and universal vinaigrette sauce. A tomato and mozzarella salad is a must, and even ordinary bread, sprinkled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt, tastes extremely delicious. Olive oil is an indispensable element in the recipe for traditional Italian pizza and finds its place when creating sweet pastries and desserts.
Olive oil in natural cosmetics
Olive oil is also one of the best natural anti-ageing cosmetic products. Its beneficial effect on the skin has already been appreciated in antiquity. It was used as a moisturizing cosmetic in ancient India, Palestine and Armenia. Unsaturated fatty acids effectively rebuild the disturbed hydrolipid barrier of the skin, thus increasing its natural resistance and resistance to external factors. Olive oil soothes irritation and the feeling of tightness, and the antibacterial properties are an ally in the case of minor blemishes and pimples. Thanks to the content of vitamins A, E and retinol, it has an intense anti-wrinkle effect, smoothes the skin structure, refreshes the colour, and the skin becomes firm and elastic. Creating a protective barrier, it protects the epidermis against external factors such as smog, dust, frost, UV radiation and protects against excessive loss of water from the deeper layers of the dermis, thanks to which we control the appropriate level of its hydration. External use on the skin is extensive – we can use it as an independent care product, as an emollient added to water during bathing, it can be a great base for home peels. Thanks to its naturalness, it is perfect as a makeup remover that perfectly removes even the strongest makeup without irritating or pinching the eyes.
Who is olive oil for?
We will also notice a beneficial effect on the other body parts that we want to take special care of. Regular dipping of the nails in warm olive oil strengthens and regenerates them, the nails grow harder and shinier, and the cuticles around them become softer and less visible. In the case of dry feet and hands, we will immediately notice a favourable improvement in their appearance after using a little oil. Oil can also act as an express SOS for dry and damaged hair, its addition to your favourite mask perfectly complements care, and with regular use, the hair becomes soft, shiny and elastic. During use, owners of thin eyebrows and eyelashes observe a significant thickening and thickening of the natural eye frame.
It was additionally appreciated when creating care cosmetics. Olive oil can be added in protective and anti-ageing creams for mature, delicate and dry skin in intensively regenerating hand creams, masks, and body lotions. Regularly guests in the composition of ready-made shampoos and hair masks, natural nail lotions and preparations thickening eyebrows and eyelashes. By saponifying it, extremely gentle washing and washing agents are produced in the world. Olive oil is one of the three ingredients of the legendary Syrian Aleppo soap, which is suitable for all skin types, from baby, through atopic and allergic to the skin of the elderly, requiring special care.
Interestingly, olive oil is a product so precious that it has found its place in many cultures and religions. In the Bible itself, she is mentioned 140 times, and in Christian rituals, she participated in the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and all kinds of anointing and ordination. The dove with the olive branch is regarded as a well-known symbol of peace between nations. We can also find many mentions in the Iliad and Odyssey, where Odysseus’ bed was carved from an olive tree, and his body was rubbed with oil to maintain youth and vitality. Thanks to the mythological creation of the olive tree to feed the people, Athena won the palm of victory, thanks to which she gained custody of the city. The city was later named Athens in her honour. Olive oil was also a body massager used by Olympic athletes. Among the customs of the Greeks, perfumes made of olive oil with the addition of herbal and flower extracts were a common cosmetic. These are just a few examples of the legendary and ancient uses for this liquid gold, the history of oil is so vast that it is impossible to count all its merits in the history of humankind.
In fact, it’s safe to say that olive oil has nothing but pluses and no minuses. Of course, some people do not tolerate it because of its specific taste, but taking into account the many benefits we get, it is definitely worth reaching for it from time to time, even if you mix it with yoghurt or face cream.