Just like with any food, it pays to know the facts before buying olive oil. If you really want to use the best olive oil–oil that’s pure, gently processed, and delicious–there are a few things you need to know first…
Finding the best olive oil seems simple enough–just pick up any bottle labeled “pure” or “extra virgin” right? Reality is not so simple.
The problem is this: all that olive oil on the shelves of grocery stores (or even health food stores) is most likely processed with chemical solvents or it might not even be olive oil at all! (Read more about that in Secret #3.)
3 Secrets to Finding the Best Olive Oil
Secret #1: Know Thy Olives
Think about it: the best olive oil comes from… the best olives. Like a fine wine, the best olive oil is made with olives that bring just the right flavor to the oil. And flavor is paramount. Trust me, when you’re using olive oil to make homemade salad dressings or drizzled over your favorite pasta dish, you want just the right touch of authentic flavor.
How do you know what olives are used in your olive oil? Good question! On most of the bottles of olive oil you find on store shelves, there won’t be a single mention of what olives were used. Sometimes you’ll be able to track down the variety of olives with a few phone calls, but that’s assuming someone on the other end of the phone knows (or cares) which olives they use.
The better option is to deal with a smaller company who is genuinely proud of their oil. They’ll know exactly what olives are used and will make that information easy to find.
For instance, Jovial’s new organic extra virgin olive oil “Olio Nuovo” is made from three ancient varieties of olives: Favarol, Grignano and Nostrano. And you don’t have to dig to find this info–it’s right on the bottle. Here’s what Jovial has to say about their unique olives:
“Most people are used to the flavor of olive oil from the popular olive cultivars Frantoio, Leccino or Arbequina. Today, despite there being hundreds of olive varieties still in existence in Italy, only a handful are grown on the majority of farms. Our varieties are called Favarol, Nostrano and Grignano and their flavor is very different from most oils on the market. In fact, this may be the only oil like this to reach the U.S. market. The flavor is very delicate and nicely fruity while being less peppery and bitter.”
But using the right olives is just the first step to making the best olive oil. Farming and harvesting practices play a key role as well. Which brings us to secret number two…
Secret #2: Know Thy Source
Whether it’s fruits and veggies or eggs and meat, the principle of finding the best is the same: know your farmer. And this also applies to finding the best olive oil. Here are a couple key factors you want think about:
Choose organic. It goes without saying (though I’ll say it anyway), that you should look for oil made with organically-grown olives. I prefer certified organic olive oil, but small quality farms may use organic farming practices even if they aren’t certified–either way, it pays to know your farmer!
Climate matters. As you now know, the quality of the olives factors into the flavor of the oil, but so does the local climate. Did you know the climate in Northern Italy is ideal for harvesting olives? The colder climate allows farmers to let the olives ripen naturally into the perfect delicate flavor for olive oil. It really does make a difference! (The Jovial olive oil I mentioned above? Grown in the Veneto region of Northern Italy.)
Secret #3: Know Thy Processing Techniques
Most people know that the best olive oil is going to be extra virgin olive oil. The problem? A lot of the “extra virgin” olive oil on the market doesn’t come anywhere close to being pure.
True extra virgin olive oil requires a special process to extract the oil from the olives. No chemical solvents can be used–the olives must be pressed mechanically. And the temperature during the entire process can’t go over 80 degrees Fahrenheit (which is why it’s also referred to as “cold-pressed” oil).
Unfortunately, most “extra virgin” olive oils don’t live up to the name:
- In 2007, officials seized 10,000 cases of “extra virgin” olive oil in New York and New Jersey for fraud. It turns out the “olive” oil was actually mostly soybean oil laced with a little low-grade olive oil. (source)
- In 2010, the UC Davis Olive Center tested 134 samples of various brands of extra virgin olive oil–73% of the samples failed to qualify for the “extra virgin” label! Earlier tests that year had the same results: two-thirds of the olive oil brands tested from California grocery stores weren’t what they said they were. (source)
This is why it really makes sense to know your source. Find an olive oil producer you can trust, and verify that they produce a truly “extra virgin” and “cold-pressed” olive oil.
Jovial’s Olio Nuovo – Olive Oil You Can Trust
As with the best wine, the best olive oil is also a matter of preference. So while tastes may differ, I wanted to share with you my latest favorite in the category of extra virgin olive oil: Jovial’s Olio Nuovo. This oil meets with all the criteria discussed in this post:
- It’s made with specific ancient olive varieties for the best flavor (I’m picky about my olive oil and I think this oil tastes amazing).
- It’s certified organic.
- It’s grown, harvested and pressed on small family farms in Northern Italy.
- It’s processed with the proper techniques to ensure it is a truly cold-pressed and extra virgin oil.
Not many oils meet these requirements, which is why I consider Olio Nuovo one of the very best olive oils you can find.
More Healthy Food Tips:
- Fake Olive Oil: 3 Ways to Tell if You’ve Been Duped
- 17 Kombucha Tutorials and Recipes
- Craving Peanut Butter? Learn the Root Cause…
- 10 Reasons Why I Love Butter
- Why I Eat Raw Egg Yolks Every Day
Elizabeth is the founder of The Nourished Life and has been writing about natural living for 12 years. Her work has been featured at Shape, Bustle, and Mother Earth Living. Her mission is to help you lower your stress levels and find fun ways to become happier and healthier. Read more about Elizabeth here.