Olive oil is a fruit oil obtained from the olive (Olea europaea; family Oleaceae along with lilacs, jasmine and ash trees), a traditional tree crop of the Mediterranean Basin. The olive tree originated in Asia ans soon spread as far as Africa, Australia, Europe, Japan and China. Olive Oil is commonly used for cooking, cosmetic and pharmaceutical products as well as soaps and various traditional oil lamps.
Ancient Greek Olive Oil Hand Machinery
Over 750 million olive trees are cultivated worldwide, 95% of which are in the Mediterranean region. Most of global production comes from Southern Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. World production in 2002 was 2.6 million tonnes, of which Spain contributed 40% to 45%. In 2006, Turkey accounted for about 5% of world production, similar to the Spanish province of Jaen alone, well known for the biggest olive groves in the world. Of the European production, 93% comes from Spain, Italy and Greece.
Greece devotes 60% of its cultivated land to olive growing. It is the world's top producer of black olives and has more varieties of olives than any other country. Greece holds third place in world olive production with more than 132 million trees, which produce approximately 350,000 tons of olive oil annually. Olives are grown for oil in Greece, with Peloonnese being the source of 65% of Greek production, as well as in , Crete the Aegean Islands and Ionian Islands.
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Choosing a cold-pressed olive oil can be similar to selecting a wine. The flavor of these oils vary considerably and a particular oil may be more suited for a particular dish. Also, people who like lots of tannins in their red wines might prefer more bitter olive oils.
An important issue which is often not realized in countries that do not produce olive oil is that the freshness makes a big difference. A very fresh oil, as available in an oil producing region, tastes noticeably different from the older oils available elsewhere. In time, oils deteriorate and become stale. One-year old oil may be still pleasant to the taste, but it is surely less fragrant than fresh oil.
After the first year olive oil should be used for cooking, not for foods to be eaten cold, like salads. The taste of the olive oil is influenced by the soil that the olive trees grow on, but also by the moment when the olives have been harvested and ground. Olive oil has more uses than just consuming, it also works as a natural and safe lubricant. For example, lubricating the machinery that is used within the kitchen (grinders, blenders, cookware, etc.)
Skin care In addition to the internal health benefits of olive oil, topical application is quite popular with fans of natural health remedies. Extra Virgin "Olive Oil" is the preferred grade for moisturizing the skin, especially when used in the oil cleansing method (OCM). OCM is a method of cleansing and moisturizing the face with a mixture of extra virgin olive oil, castor oil (or another suitable carrier oil) and a select blend of essential oils.
Olive oil is also used by some to reduce ear wax build up. Olive oil can be used as an effective shaving oil to shave facial and other body hair giving results that are equivalent to expensive commercial products. Studies on mice showed that application of olive oil immediately following exposure to UVB rays has a preventive effect on the formation of tumors and skin cancer.
Jeanne Calmet who holds the record for the longest confirmed lifespan, reportedly attributed her longevity and relatively youthful appearance to olive oil, which she said she poured on all her food and rubbed into her skin. Medicinal use Olive Oil is unlikely to cause allergic reactions, and as such is used in preparations for lipophilic drug ingredients. It does have demulcent properties, and mild laxative properties, acting as a stool softener.
It is also used at room temperature as an ear wax softener. Olive Oil is also a potent blocker of intestinal contractions, and can be used to treat excessive Borborygmus. Oleocanthal from olive oil is a non-selective inhibitor of cyclooxygenase (COX) similar to classical NSAIDs like ibuprofen. It has been suggested that long-term consumption of small quantities of this compound from olive oil may be responsible in part for the low incidence of heart disease associated with a Meditteranean diet.
Thomas Jefferson wrote: ? The olive tree is surely the richest gift of Heaven.?