How to Buy Olive Oil
Do you know how to buy olive oil? Follow these tips from an olio expert
How to buy olive oil? And where does our beloved olive oil come from? “Agromafia,” CBS News’ recent 60 Minutes report, detailed the involvement of organized crime in Italy’s food business. Bill Whitaker’s interview featured Sergio Tirro from Italy’s so-called “food police” and Tom Mueller, whose 2011 book, “Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil“ shed light on olive oil frauds.
RELATED: Why Olive Oil is Good for You
Olive oil is our passion here at Foodiamo, so we had to investigate further. We contacted Diana Domenica Bruno of Una Vita, a world-class expert on olive oil, and curator of one of the world’s top Extra Virgin Olive Oil collections, to get some recommendations on how to buy olive oil.
F: Why is it important to buy and use extra virgin olive oil?
DDB: Doctors and scientists have studied the Mediterranean in general, and olive oil in particular, and have proven several beneficial aspects of the oil in fighting diseases from diabetes, to high blood pressure, to several types of cancer. For example, olive oil reduces inflammation, the culprit in several diseases. Oleocanthal, a compound found in EVOO, responsible for the “burning” sensation when swallowed, is a natural anti-inflammatory agent. It limits the production of inflammatory compounds in the body, pretty much like ibuprofen does. Unlike the second-grade virgin or lampate, which is unfit for human consumption, only the top grade of Extra Virgin delivers the best taste and the full health benefits of olive oil.
F: In light of the recent scandal, can you tell us how to buy olive oil?
DDB: When shopping for olive oil, study the labels carefully for information on the provenance of the oil. Designations and certifications such as “Organic,” and California Olive Council and European Union are clues to a good quality oil. Look for those made by individual producers who cultivate their own olives and closely supervise production of the oil, such as “estate bottled.”
Conversely, watch out for marketing words like “Extra Fresh or “First Cold Pressed” which are meaningless – all EVOO is pressed under 85 degrees, and there are no “second pressings.”
The price tag is one clue: if it seems too good to be true – it is! It costs money to grow the fruit, press it within hours of harvest, and similar to wines, you get what you pay for.
F: Can we use our taste to judge the quality of the oil, and if so how?
DDB: Absolutely! This is the best way to ensure that the oil has no sensory defects. The oil should always smell and taste fruity, because after all, olive oil is the only oil that is extracted from a fruit rather than a seed.
Also, taste for a nice sensation of bitterness – a positive oral perception derived from the taste buds, and induced primarily by presence of naturally occurring chemical properties of the oil. Think of the sensation from a good coffee, or the hops in a decent Pilsner beer or a nice bite of dark chocolate. The right amount of bitterness will always be present in a good EVOO.
Finally, there is a pungency, or “pepperiness” to good olio, characterized by a sharp, biting quality in the throat, which will be present in varying amounts.
Watch out for meaningless marketing words like “First Cold Pressed”. There are no “second pressings”!
F: Do you have any other tips for using EVOO?
DDB: How to buy olive oil is important, but then you have to take good care of it. Always reseal the bottle tightly. It is very important to store your EVOO in a cool, dark place to avoid light, heat or oxygenation. Dark glass or metal containers are best, as EVOO is very sensitive to light. Finally, Extra Virgin Olive Oil should be consumed within 12 months of “Harvest Date” – so purchase a bottle that you can use up in under a year.
Diana Domenica Bruno is a premier curator of special Extra Virgin Olive Oils. Her company, Una Vita, is part of her journey, fueled by a passion for learning and for health. A dual citizen of US and Italy, Diana is a resident of Albuquerque, NM and Raviscanina, her ancestral village in Southern Italy.