Olive Oil

September 20, 2012, 4:19 pm
Source: Content partners: International Olive Source, USDA
Content Cover Image

Ancient clay lamp excavated in Jerusalem, would have burned olive oil. Creative Commons

Olive oil is a liquid derived from the fruit of the olive tree (Olea europaea Oleaceae), an historical tree crop Mediterranean Basin. this product is commonly used in cooking, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, fuel and for traditional oil lamps. Olive oil is used throughout most of the world, but in especially large quantities countries rimming the Mediterranean Sea.

History

caption Original olive oil amphora extant in Phaistos archaeological site, Crete. @ C. Michael Hogan The wild olive tree is thought to have originated in Asia Minor; wild olives were collected by Neolithic peoples in the early Holocene, approximately 10,000 years before present (BP); moreover, the initial cultivation of olives is thought to have occurred in Asia Minor and in Crete roughly six thousand years ago[1] Cultivation of olive trees in the Volubilis colony of Carthage and Rome, in Morocco, was another early site of large scale olive oil production;[2] in fact, some of the original Volubilis wooden olive presses are extant on the Volubilis archaeological site today.

It is not clear when and where olive trees were first domesticated: in Asia Minor circa 7500 years BP; along the Levantine Sea coastal zone stretching from the Sinai Peninsula to modern Turkey circa 5500 years BP or somewhere in the Mesopotamian Fertile Crescent circa 4500 years BP.

One widespread view holds that olives were being grown in Crete as long ago as 5500 years BP, since the earliest surviving olive oil amphorae date to that era (Early Minoan times), although the domesticated production of olive oil is assumed to have started even earlier, since olive trees are thought to be amongst the oldest tree cultivars. An alternative view suggests that oil was produced by Cannanites in present day  Israel 6500 years BP.

Religious practices

Olive oil is associated with may religious practices, some of the oldest being associated with ancient Judaism. Olive oil was also utilized by the ancient Jews for domestic lantern fuel and for religious ceremony, a use that is memorialized during the Jewish holiday, Hanukkah. Olive oil was used to anoint the early kings of both the Greeks and Jews. The Greeks even used olive oil to anoint athletes who were successful in winning their contests. During baptism in the Christian church, holy oil, which is frequently olive oil, has historically been used for anointment. As reported in the New York Times: ''In Israel it is obvious that Hanukkah is connected with olive oil,'' said David Eitam, director of the Olive Oil Industry Museum in Haifa, Israel. ''The famous miracle in 165 BC., when Judah Maccabee and his brothers found a drop of oil to light the candelabra in the Temple in Jerusalem, was not soy or vegetable oil. It was olive oil, common in Israel from the time of Adam and Eve.''

At the Christmas mass, chrism (a Holy anointing olive oil also called Myrrh) is blessed by the bishop and used in the ceremony. Similar to transport of grape stock, the early Christian missionaries brought the olive tree with them to California for food, but also for ceremonial use. According to the Olive Oil Source, 1400 years ago the prophet Muhammad, advised his followers to apply olive oil to their bodies, and he used oil on his head. Olive oil has also been employed to anoint the dead in many cultures.[3]

Production

caption Original olive oil press from Roman era, Volubilis, Morocco. @ C. Michael Hogan The current major olive oil producers in the world are Spain, Italy and Greece. World production and consumption is growing, with production in the 2008/2009 season recorded at 2.67 million metric tonnes and consumption exceeding production with 2.83 million metric tonnes consumed [4].

Of total world olive oil consumption, the United States consumes approximately nine percent, with the majority of consumption attributed to the countries of origin. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, in 2008, USA olive oil production was 500,000 gallons. 

Because of its consumer popularity and high price, olive oil is strictly regulated including analytical parameters for purity as approved by the International Olive Council (IOC), whose following characterizations apply:

Olive oil is the oil obtained solely from the fruit of the olive tree (Olea europaea L.), to the exclusion of oils obtained using solvents or re-esterification processes and of any mixture with oils of other kinds. It is marketed in accordance with the following designations and definitions:

Virgin olive oils are the oils obtained from the fruit of the olive tree solely by mechanical or other physical means under conditions, particularly thermal conditions, that do not lead to alterations in the oil, and which have not undergone any treatment other than washing, decantation, centrifugation and filtration.

Virgin olive oils suitable for consumption as they are first produced without alteration of the oil are:

Extra virgin olive oil: virgin olive oil which has a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 0.8 grams per 100 grams, and the other characteristics of which correspond to those fixed for this category in this standard

Virgin olive oil: virgin olive oil which has a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than two grams per 100 grams and the other characteristics of which correspond to those fixed for this category in this standard.

Ordinary virgin olive oil: virgin olive oil which has a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 3.3 grams per 100 grams and the other characteristics of which correspond to those fixed for this category in this standard.

Virgin olive oil not ready for consumption as it is, designated lampante virgin olive oil, is virgin olive oil which has a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, greater than 3.3 grams per 100 grams and/or the organoleptic characteristics and other characteristics of which correspond to those fixed for this category in this standard. This procuct is intended for refining or for technical use.

Refined olive oil is the olive oil obtained from virgin olive oils by refining methods which do not lead to alterations in the initial glyceridic structure.It has a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 0.3 grams per 100 grams and its other characteristics correspond to those fixed for this category in this standard. 

Olive oil is the oil consisting of a blend of refined olive oil and virgin olive oils fit for consumption with no chemical processing. It has a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than one gram per 100 grams and its other characteristics correspond to those fixed for this category in this standard.

Olive-pomace oil is the oil obtained by treating olive pomace with solvents or other physical treatments, to the exclusion of oils obtained by re esterification processes and of any mixture with oils of other kinds. It is marketed in accordance with the following designations and definitions:

Crude olive-pomace oil is olive pomace oil whose characteristics correspond to those fixed for this category in this standard. It is intended for refining for use for human consumption, or it is intended for technical use.

Refined olive pomace oil is the oil obtained from crude olive pomace oil by refining methods which do not lead to alterations in the initial glyceridic structure. It has a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 0.3 grams per 100 grams and its other characteristics correspond to those fixed for this category in this standard.

Olive pomace oil is the oil comprising the blend of refined olive pomace oil and virgin olive oils fit for consumption as they are. It has a free acidity of not more than one gram per 100 grams and its other characteristics correspond to those fixed for this category in this standard.5/ In no case shall this blend be called olive oil."  

Chemically olive oil is composed primarily (upwards of 98%) of triacylglycerols in addition to much smaller amounts of other components including fatty acids, sterols, and polyphenols. Analysis of these chemicals, along with other molecules, is employed to rate olive oil quality.

caption Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

References

  1. Ehud Galili et al. Evidence for Earliest Olive-Oil Production in Submerged Settlements off the Carmel Coast, Israel. Journal of Archaeological Science.24:1141–1150 (1997); Pagnol, p. 19, says the 6th millennium in Jericho, but cites no source.
  2. Garcia-Gonzalez, D and R. Aparicio. 2010. Research in Olive Oil: Challenges for the near future. J. Agric. Food Chem. 58:12569-12577. 
  3. FAOSTAT Crops processed 2009 data for olive oil. Retrieved October 5, 2011
  4. International Olive Council Accessed December 2011
  5. Olive Oil Accessed December 2011.
  6. Sibbett, G.S., Louise Ferguson, Joann L Coviello, Margaret Lindstrand (2005). Olive Production Manual. ANR Publications. p. 158.
  7. The Olive Oil Source Accessed December 2011
  8. The Olive Tree Retrieved October 5, 2011.
  9. Tripoli, E., M. Giammanco, G. Tabacchi, D. Di Majo, S, Giammanco, M. La Guardia. 2005. The phenolic compounds of olive oil: structure, biological activity and human health. Nutrition Research Reviews 18:98-112.
  10. UC Davis Olive Oil Center Report  Accessed December 2011.

Line notes

  1. ^ The Olive Tree. Olive World  [accessed Dec. 20, 2011]
  2. ^ C.Michael Hogan. 2007. Volubilis. Megalithic Portal. ed. Andy Burnham
  3. ^ Olive Oil Source. [accessed Dec. 20, 2011]
  4. ^ D.Garcia-Gonzalez and R. Aparicio. 2010. Research in Olive Oil: Challenges for the near future. J. Agric. Food Chem. 58:12569-12577.


caption Volubilis extant olive press dating to Roman era

Glossary

Citation

Monosson, E. (2012). Olive Oil. Retrieved from http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/172016

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