Olive oil is a vegetable oil for mainly culinary use. It is obtained from the fruit of the olive tree (Olea europaea), called olive.
Almost a third of the olive pulp is oil. For this reason, since ancient times it has been easily extracted with a simple pressure exercised by a mill. In Spain, the facilities where the oil is obtained are called almazara, and it has also been used for cosmetic, medicinal and religious purposes and for oil lamps.
The olive or olive is not usually eaten raw due to the bitterness of its taste (mainly due to the presence of phenolic compounds). This taste is greatly reduced by applying various maceration processes. However, 90% of the world’s olive production is used to produce oil.
Historically and culturally it has been a product closely linked to the Mediterranean area. Today only 3% of the world production is made outside the Mediterranean area. Spain produces almost half of the world’s olive oil, followed by Italy and Greece. These three countries account for three quarters of world production.
The oil is extracted from ripe olives that are six to eight months old, when they contain their maximum amount of oil, which usually occurs in late autumn. The olives are subjected to an initial pressure in order to extract their juice. The quality of the oil depends largely on the subsequent processing. For this reason, producers monitor these steps very carefully. The quality of olive oil is judged by its organoleptic properties and its free fatty acid content. There are regulations in the European Union on the classification of oil into six categories, depending on the concentration of fatty acids.
It is necessary to distinguish the olive cultivation and its scientific study (called oliviculture) from the extraction of the olive oil and its study (called elaiotecnia, from the Greek elaion, which means oil). More generally, elaiotecnia is the science that studies the extraction of vegetable oils from any origin, such as olive oil, sunflower oil, peanut oil, palm oil, etc.
Today olive oil is sold in bottles (glass or plastic), as well as in drums protected from light.