In praise of olive oil

August 7, 2018 6:43 am Published by Leave your thoughts

Golden-green, spicy, peppery, pungent: a viscous substance, full of sunshine, that glugs out of a tall, thin bottle. But others have said it better than me. Here’s the poet Barbara Crooker’s last stanza of her Ode to Olive Oil:

‘Velvet on the tongue. The light
of late afternoons. I am eating
sunshine, spread on bread;
primroses open in my mouth.
my chin gleams yellow,
the opposite of a halo,
but one surely even the saints
would recognize and bless.’

Extra-virgin olive oil (the only type we sell at Naturally Good Food) is considered by many to be a food of the Gods! Indeed, the trees themselves have almost a holy status in the Mediterranean: symbols of peace, health and life itself. They grow in tangles, never too high, managing to survive drought and poor soil and thriving on sunshine. Some live for hundreds of years.

The fruits of the olive trees – black, green, yellow and purple – are used for food, for medicine and of course, for oil. The very best oils are made by working in harmony with the tree and fruit itself, in the old-fashioned, traditional way. The more carefully the olives are handled, and the more slowly and gently they’re pressed, the better the quality of the oil.

The olive harvest

Olives are therefore often picked by hand in the Mediterranean and the Middle East, slid into baskets like beads from a necklace. The trees may also be gently shaken and the fruit gathered on blankets. In some places, olives are gently raked down into nets. It’s a convivial process on small farms, with family and neighbours coming together for the harvest.

Generally, olives are milled a day or so after harvesting. First, they’re washed or sorted, to remove stems and leaves. Then they’re crushed into a paste and mixed slowly. The paste is pressed, separating the juices into the oil, water and a product called pomace. The latter two are separated off and the oil taken to be bottled.

Extra-virgin olive oil

Extra-virgin olive oil is derived from this first pressing of a batch of olives. To be termed ‘extra-virgin’ it must have a low level of acidity, along with a superior fragrance, colour and flavour. Rich in monounsaturated fat and antioxidants, research indicates that this particularly healthy kind of oil provides protection against heart disease and can help lower cholesterol. And of course, it tastes divine.

You can cook with extra-virgin olive oil, drizzle it or use it in toiletries. But once again, others have said it better than me. Here’s Barbara Crooker again, with some great poetic tips!

You can marry it with aceto balsamico
to dress your salad, gilding emerald
and ruby leaves— You can ladle
it on white beans and sage, drizzle
it on sun-warm tomatoes, lace it
in minestrone, bathe garlic heads
for roasting. You can make it
into soap, rub it with mint leaves
for migraine. Take a spoonful
to prevent hangover. Mash
it with rosemary and all the pain
is gone from creaky knees.

All things considered, we can’t praise olive oil highly enough! Click here to see all the extra-virgin olive oil we stock.

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This post was written by Yzanne

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