The late food authority and writer Waverley Root observed that the type of fat in which food is cooked defines regional cuisine far more than any other ingredient used in a dish.
Some of the best food in the world comes from olive-growing regions—consider Provence in France, southern Italy, the Catalan section of Spain, and parts of Greece, the Middle East, and California.
During his extensive travels, Thomas Jefferson was so enamored with the taste of olive oil that he tried—unsuccessfully—to cultivate olive trees at his home in Virginia. Fortunately the Franciscans had better luck when they planted mission-variety olive trees in California.
California dominates the domestic olive oil industry, producing 850,000 gallons (worth about $17 million) in the 2009-2010 season.
There are 3 basic types of olive oil. From mildest flavor to most robust, those grades are pure, virgin, and extra virgin. Extra virgin oil comes from the first cold-pressing of olives. Cold-pressing preserves aromatic compounds and higher levels of antioxidants; and produces an oil that is relatively low in acid. (Pale-colored “lite” olive oil is not even a category—it is merely a way to sell flavorless, often chemically rectified oil. Contrary to what producers might have you believe, it is not lower in fat or calories.)
When it comes to fats, olive oil is considered a healthy choice thought to lower the risk of heart disease.
Most olive trees bear fruit only after 3 or 4 years.They reach full maturity at 8 to 10 years, and can continue to produce olives for centuries. (Yes, centuries.) Different varieties of olives ripen at different times.
Olive Arithmetic: It takes between 325 and 500 olives to yield 1 cup of oil.
One tablespoon of olive oil contains119 calories, no carbohydrates, and about 13.5g fat. An opened bottle of olive oil can be stored in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months.
10. Both here and abroad, high-quality olive oil is expensive to produce; and added freight costs make it even more so. When a producer sells olive oil directly to consumers at the farmers’ market, the “middle man,” has been eliminated and you are ensured the best price for a superior California oil.