Italian Olive Oil
Is There Any Other Kind?
Spain is a highly regarded producer of quality olive oil, but there are also some excellent varieties of Italian olive oil on the market. Olive trees have been cultivated around the Mediterranean basin for hundreds of years now, and certain regions proved to be more suitable and prosperous than others. Olive oil has always been a main cooking and flavoring ingredient of healthy Mediterranean food.
Italian olive oil is versatile, and it doesn't need to be refrigerated. It also has a long shelf life and is suitable for both cold and hot foods since Italian olive oil can add a lot of smooth flavor to things such as marinades, sauces and salad dressings.
North American olive oil consumption was actually quite low until around the mid 1970s. Some olive oil brands were pretty low standard and some others were even suspected of being fraudulent. Then Italian scientists suddenly claimed that studies proved that olive oil had no cholesterol, an obvious fact, and it was therefore healthy for you. North Americans were actually pretty health conscious, but quite gullible. Margarine was also supposed to be good for you, but since it is hydrogenated it isn't exactly the healthiest thing you can digest. Anyway, North Americans predictably jumped on the band wagon and started consuming olive oil like it was going out of style. This more or less caused the demand for better quality olive oil and it was brought over from various countries, including Italy. That, more or less, is how fine Italian olive oil ended up in North American gourmet dishes.
The quality of Italian olive oil can be affected by the geography and climate of the country as draughts and significant changes in temperature can affect both the quality and quantity of the crop. A variety of olives are used and some Italian olive oils are pale in color while others are smoky green and some varieties show buttery, yellow hues. Needless to say, each Italian olive oil has a different texture and taste. Filtered olive oils are limpid and taste less intense. However, unfiltered olive oil should be consumed within a year of production. North American consumers should keep this in mind, as it usually takes Italian olive oil a few months to get here. This means by the time the oil is placed on shelves for sale nine months may have already passed by.