While there are many many varieties of olive trees, producing a wonderful array of oils from mild and gentle to pungent and fiesty, you may have seen quite a few different classifications on the labels and wondered which is best!

Until new labelling policies take effect (under which different grades will be clearly outlined – whether NATURAL (eg extra virgin) or REFINED (eg pure, 100% pure, premium, light/lite, extra lite, etc) the following is a guide to labels you might find helpful.

Extra Virgin
The very best! With no chemicals or refining involved, and cold pressed (i.e. temperature below 32o C during oil extraction) extra virgin olive oil really is nature’s gift of goodness. From the first pressing (extraction) of freshly picked olives, it will be high in polyphenols and low in free fatty acids (less than 0.8%) with excellent aroma, colour and flavour.

It's absolutely ideal for salads, dipping, bruschetta, bread-making, frying, basting, casseroles, etc - limited only by your imagination.

Still a great un-refined oil but with an allowable free fatty acid content of up to 2%.

Pure (also sold as Light)
These are refined oils, usually solvent extracted from the residue of the first pressing, to which is added some higher quality olive oil (usually extra virgin) to give it back some degree of aroma and taste. It will usually have been subject to heating (which destroys many of the beneficial qualities) and contains no fewer calories than extra virgin – the light (or lite) simply refers to the flavour.

Also a refined oil (chemically retrieved with solvents) but a lower grade again, best suited for deep-frying, etc, if you must use it at all!

Olive Oil, the world’s most commonly eaten mono-unsaturated oil, has been enjoyed for many thousands of years around the Mediterranean. Not only does it taste good, but there is also a mass of evidence that a diet based on olive oil can promote longer life and may prevent some of the diseases associated with our usual western eating pattern.

The beneficial inclusion of olive oil in the diet, and other applications for olive oil, is multi-faceted:
  • Mediterranean Diet Pyramid
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Antooxidant properties
  • Olive oil and cancer
  • Blood pressure
  • Olive oil and diabetes
  • Olive oil and obesity
  • Immune system
  • Digestive system
  • Pregnancy and childhood
  • Olive oil and ageing
  • Olive oil and skin
For full information visit the International Olive Council and its associated Olive Oil and Health section.

Olive oil does not improve with age and ideally is best used within 18 to 24 months from the date of pressing. Air, light and heat are the main enemies, causing oxidisation which leads to deterioration in quality and to the oil becoming rancid - probably the most common fault in olive oil. It causes the oil to smell like stale walnuts and have an off taste with little or no fruit flavour.

Do justice to your extra virgin olive oil and keep it stored in a cool dark place.

Think of good extra virgin olive oil as a flavour-enhancer, not just a frying medium. By all means enjoy the flavour it adds to cooking, but it's great just drizzled over fresh salad for example. And in mashed potatoes instead of butter...beautiful!

In fact extra virgin olive oil can be used in almost every recipe which calls for butter. Get hold of some nice fruity Rash Valley Olives evoo and use three-quarters of the amount suggested for butter. You'll enjoy the difference it makes!

Click here for more recipe ideas from around the world.
Award Winning* Queensland  Extra Virgin Olive Oil

*Class 1 SILVER MEDAL -- 2016 Royal Adelaide Show

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