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Olive Oil

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Olive Oil

Latin Name: Olea europaea

Family: Oleaceae

Etymology
Also known as Florence oil or Lucca oil
(Florence and Lucca are towns in Tuscany which are important trading centres for olive oil). The olive tree dates back several thousands of years. In ancient Egypt the tree was called the bak, whereas to the Romans it was the oles, derived from oleum meaning oil.

Then the Lord said unto Moses: Take the following fine spices  - 500 shekels of liquid myrrh, half as much (that is, 250 shekels) of fragrant cinnamon, 250shekels of fragrant cane, 500 shekels of cassia - all according to the sanctuary shekel - and a hin* of olive oil . Make these into a sacred anointing oil, a fragrant blend, the work of the perfumer. It will be sacred anointing oil. Exodus 30.22.23 (1491 BC), The Holy Bible, NIV ( about 4 litres).

The Plant and its Environment
The silvery green olive branch has always been a token of peace; the dove messenger to Noah, the wearing of the olive leaf garlands by the Greeks, the use of olive branches in the Jewish feast of the Tabernacles, Teh symbol of the United nations Flag etc.The trees are not large, growing to a height of about 8 metres (25 feet), but they do live to a great age, which can be some hundreds of years. It is native to the Mediterranean region but has been successfully introduced into many other places.

Cultivation of the evergreen olive is recorded from the earliest times (5000 BC) and the oil has always been an important product. The chief centres of oil cultivation are Italy, southern France, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Turkey, Israel, Morocco and Tunisia and,  more recently, California, Mexico and Australia.

Olive trees begin to produce fruit after 15 years and continue to do so for literally hundreds of years. Contrary to popular belief, both black and the green olives come from the same kind of trees, as the fruits (drupes) turn from green to black progressively as they ripen. 


The Oil
olive oil is slightly green owing to the retention of trace amounts of Chlorophyll - the green colouring matter of plants. Like avocado oil, olive oil is prone to congealing when cold, thus it is usually filtered in the warm countries where the tree is grown. Some olive oils have an uncharacteristic taste or colour and these are frequently the result of the chemical refining of genuine but poor quality material. Obviously, this type of oil should not be used therapeutically.

Method of Extraction
Like avocado oil, olive oil is obtained from the flesh of the fruit and not from the stone or kernel. The picked fruits are left in the sun until they begin to ferment, whereupon they are gently crushed  (so not to fracture the stones, which are then removed ) and the flesh is pressed. The resulting oil is centrifuged and filtered for clarity. The first portion of oil is known as virgin oil or first pressing. The fruits yield about 18-20% oil and is relatively expensive.
Water is then mixed with the pulp, which is pressed again to produce oil of second quality. The refuse is allowed to accumulate in pits and more oil is extracted by boiling or dissolving in carbon disulphide and recovery of the solvent. Such oil is only fit for the roughest purposes, such as low quality soaps.

Principal Constituents

Type Based On Content - %
Saturated Fatty Acids     
Typical fatty acid unit content    10
Monounsaturated fatty acid units    
C18:1  oleic acid 55-83 
Typical monosaturated fatty acid unit content    74 
Polyunsaturated fatty acid units     
C18:2  linoleic acid  11 
C18:3  alpha-linolenic acid  0.7 
 Typical polyunsaturated fatty acid unit content   16 

Physical Properties

Odour                                              Typically slightly fruity smell

Acid value; extra virgin                     <1

virgin                                               <2

Specific gravity                                 0.916-0.919

Energy value Kcal/100 ml                 892

 

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