July 8, 2012
Olive oil is a very broad term–unfortunately too broad.
Virgin olive oil is a fruity thick oil that comes from the pits of olives. Only this type of olive oil is touted for its health benefits and distinctive flavor. “Virgin olive oil” is separated and collected using only mechanical means (pressing, washing, centrifugation, etc.). “Extra virgin olive oil” is the oil collected from only the first press of this technique.
Extra virgin olive oil has a rich floral taste that is unmatched by the other oils.*
However, the term “olive oil” arrives as a result of similar steps but the use of chemical solvents and re-esterification are allowed. These oils are similar with respect to fatty acid composition to virgin oils. Unfortunately no distinction is made between olive oil isolated in this way and the same oils blended with cheaper oils of differing fatty acid composition: namely canola and soy. Further these oils are of a “neutral” taste, so the virgin olive oil flavor is diluted or lost.
*These descriptions of oil are the agreed upon convention–by both the USDA and the IOC–, but are numerous cases where these labels fail to be accurate.
A hard-to-believe deal on extra virgin olive oil is probably blended with soy or canola oil.
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