FYI - Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Answers to all your extra virgin olive oil questions; including production, shelf-life, storage, and nutritional information, and so much more!


HISTORY OF OLIVE OIL According to mythology, while competing to be the patron deity of the un-named city of Athens, Goddess Athena presented the first olive tree to the city's king, Cecrops.  As olive trees spread over the Mediterranean country-side, the Greeks discovered that a rich and fragrant oil could be yielded by pressing the fruit.  It was used as a body oil after being scented with fragrances and herbs.  However, it was the Romans who first realized the culinary potential of the oil, using it as a condiment over meat, vegetables, and fish.  The Early Romans also recognized the health benefits of olive oil, using it to counteract poisons, heal wounds, and treat digestive problems.


PRODUCTION OF AUTHENTIC ITALIAN EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL The traditional method of extracting olive oil from the fruit is virtually the same today as it has been for thousands of years. At harvest time, which varies from region to region, olives are harvested by hand, and collected in nets placed around the foot of the tree. A day or two thereafter, the olives are taken to the mill. Giant stones weighing several tons are used to crush the olives and pits into mash.

The olive mash is then spread onto thin mats. These mats are stacked, and placed into a machine "press." As the press applies several hundred pounds of pressure, oil and water from the mash seep out of the mats, and drip into collection vats. In the traditional method, no heat is applied in the pressing--hence the term "first cold pressed." The oil is allowed to settle, and any vegetable water is removed either by centrifuge or decantation.

Oil extracted from the mechanical pressing of the olive is described as "virgin" olive oil, because it is pure, unrefined and unprocessed.  Early harvest oils (olives are still green) have a peppery quality that is described as grassy, green, bitter, or leafy.  Early harvest oils are higher in polyphenols and antioxidants.   Late harvest oils (olives are black and ripe) are lighter and fruity and are described as having sweet notes such as apple, melon, floral, or peach.


WHAT DOES D.O.P. MEAN In Europe, the D.O.P. designation stands for Denomination of Protected Origin. Only certain food products with historical significance are given DOP status, which is controlled by government agencies. Once a DOP is created for a specific food, the various manufacturers must then complete a lengthy process to certify their production. For a product to get certified, it must be produced in a specific geographic region using accepted techniques. Only then can their label bear the DOP designation.


DIFFERECE BETWEEN FILTERED AND UNFILTERED EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL Extra virgin oil may be consumed either in a filtered or unfiltered state. Filtration is the process by which the microscopic bits of the fruit of the olive are removed from the oil. Unfiltered oil will be cloudy until it settles to the bottom. Some consider unfiltered oil superior because of the added flavor from the fruit, while others say it shortens the oil's shelf life. Ultimately, it is a matter of personal preference.



  • The colors of extra virgin olive oil can range from bright green to soft golden.  
  • Color can also vary with the type of olive, when it was picked and growing conditions.
  • Generally, the darker, more intense the color, the flavor will be more fruity and assertive; however, this is not always a reliable rule of thumb.
  • Unethical producers can crush a high percentage of leaves with the olives to obtain a greener coloring.



  • Dark green, robust oils are best for full-flavored foods such as game, red meat, stews, spicy foods, and pasta.
  • Moderate, fruity, or buttery oils are best used as finishing oils on soups, light pasta dishes, chicken, seafood, vegetables, or as a dipper for bread.
  • Light colored, floral oils are best on mild dishes including white fish and salads.



  • Store upright, in an air-tight container, in a cool, dark place.
  • Do not store near a stove or on windowsills since direct light and heat will damage the oil.
  • If you place oil in the refrigerator, it will become cloudy, solidify, and lose its aroma.



  • Traditionally, extra virgin olive oil is said to have a 18 month shelf-life - however the oils on our site are hand selected from companies that take great pride in thier production - which helps extend the shelf-life well beyond the 18 months.
  • Unfiltered oils because of their sediments should be consumed more quickly than filtered oils.
  • Younger and fresher olive oils are more intense and pungent.
  • As extra virgin olive oil ages, its fruity flavor mellows.
  • Mass-produced, lower-grade olive oils have higher acidity and tend to become rancid more quickly. 


HEALTH BENEFITS According to, olive oil is now accredited for protecting the heart, reducing the risk of cancer, lessening symptoms of arthritis, controlling blood sugar, and helping treat bacterial infections that cause gastritis and ulcers.


NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION A tablespoon of oil contains 120 calories, 14 grams of fat, and no cholesterol. Seventy seven percent (77%) of the fat in olive oil is monounsaturated, and nine percent (9%) is polyunsaturated fat; fourteen percent (14%) is vegetable-derived saturated fat. Virgin olive oils also contain the antioxidants beta-carotene and Vitamin E, as well as the phenolic compounds tyrosol and hydroxytyrosol.


HOW DOES OLIVE OIL differ FROM EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL Olive Oil. Ordinary "olive oil" is actually a blended oil product. Olive oil producers start with low quality virgin olive oils. For these oils to be fit for consumption, they must be refined using mechanical, thermal and/or chemical processes. The resulting "refined olive oil" is largely colorless and tasteless. Before the resulting product is sold as "olive oil," the producer blends into the refined olive oil a percentage of quality virgin olive oil to provide color and taste.

"Light" or "Mild" Olive Oil. Light olive oil is a variation on ordinary olive oil. Producers of this product use a highly refined olive oil, and add less quality virgin oil than that typically used to blend olive oil. The only thing "light" about light olive oil is the taste and color; it has the same caloric and fat content as other oils.


HOW IS EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL different THAN VEGETALBE OILThree things make olive oil superior to vegetable oils: taste, nutrition and integrity. Taste is the most obvious difference between olive oil and the commercially popular vegetable oils such as corn, soybean and canola oils. These oils are tasteless fats. You would not want to eat a piece of bread dipped in vegetable oil; for the same basic reason, many chefs refrain from adding tasteless fat to the foods they prepare. When you cook with oil, get the most flavor and texture you can.

Nutritionally, olive oil contains more monounsaturated fat than any of the popular vegetable oils. Moreover, vegetable oils are industrial, processed foods. Vegetable oils are generally extracted by means of petroleum-based chemical solvents, and then must be highly refined to remove impurities. Along with the impurities, refining removes taste, color and nutrients.

Extra virgin olive oils are not processed or refined. It is said that you do not make extra virgin olive oil, you find it. Extra virgin olive oil is essentially "fresh squeezed" from the fruit of the olive tree, without alteration of the color, taste, and nutrients or vitamins. Because of the integrity of the product, and its antioxidant components, olive oil will keep longer than all other vegetable oils.


HOW IS EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL different THAN BUTTER AND MARGARINE  | Butter and margarine are essentially fats like cooking oils. A tablespoon of ordinary butter contains twelve grams of fat, of which 8 grams (66%) are saturated fat. In addition, a serving of butter contains 33 mgs of cholesterol.  Extra virgin olive oil adds a flavor and textural dimension lacking in other oils, making it a suitable substitute for butter and margarine in almost any recipe. In fact, more and more restaurants are serving extra virgin olive oil, both plain or flavored with salt and pepper, as an alternative to butter for bread.


Site Index:  The Epic Tale of Olive Oil, by Lisa Turner,