What You Need to Know When Buying Extra Virgin Olive Oil

How to Buy the Right Extra Virgin Olive OilAs I mentioned in my last post, I was invited to a cooking class at the Seaport Hotel’s Action Kitchen yesterday. It was such a fun way to spend an afternoon, and after accidently spilling tuna radicchio salad all over the floor, I’d say I easily won the title of Cooking Class MVP. Oops…

Supported by Italy and the European Union, the Flavor Your Life class set out to educate us on quality Italian extra virgin olive oil. The majority of what we buy at the supermarket here in America is not, in fact, EVOO (yikes!). If we aren’t careful to read labels, we most likely are buying bottom-of-the-barrel olive pomace diluted with other vegetable oils from various countries. There was a recent article in the New York Times about this very issue (it’s a quick, illustrated slideshow that’s worth a look). My guess is that with this dilution of the olive oil industry and the current rise in popularity of other cooking oils, Italy (the largest exporter of evoo) has a vested interest in promoting these types of classes. While my use of coconut oil has definitely increased in the past year, I still use extra virgin olive oil all the time, so was excited to learn more.

How to Buy the Right Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Before we got to the actual cooking part of the class, olive oil expert Bill Marsano gave us the scoop on everything you could ever want to know about olive oil. It’s useful info when shopping for evoo, so I wanted to share it with you all today.

Read the Label Carefully—Look for “Made in Italy”/ ”Made in [Region of Italy]”

This can be tricky. As little as 2% of the olive oil needs to come from Italy for it to be legal for bottlers to put “Product of Italy” or “Produced in Italy” on the label. What you ideally want to buy is an olive oil that has been pressed and bottled on the same farm (or at least in the same region) that grew the olives. Among other reasons, this is because olives should be pressed within 24 hours of being harvested.

Look for the words “Made in” and the flag of Italy—this is an official label that ensures your olive oil really was grown and bottled in Italy; not imported from other countries and simply packaged there. The cooking class was focused on Italian extra virgin olive oil (Italy is the biggest exporter of it), but I should add that perfectly delicious and high-quality olive oils come from other countries as well. What you want to avoid is olive oils that were grown in several different countries, shipped to another for pressing, then diluted with low-quality vegetable oils, and then finally bottled and exported to your local grocery store.

Out of curiosity, I looked at the evoo I had in my kitchen when I got home from the cooking class. Here’s what was the label: “Packed in Italy with select extra virgin olive oils from Italy, Spain, Greece & Tunisia.” Womp womp wommmmp. While blends of different olives aren’t necessarily a bad thing, this is exactly the red flag EVOO Guru Bill had warned us about.

The Bellucci extra virgin olive oil that we used and were given in class actually had a QR code right on the bottle so that you could see precisely where it came from and track it back to the olive farm. Love that! 

How to Buy the Right Extra Virgin Olive Oil

First Cold Press Is Best

You get more oil from the olives if heat is applied, but you get a better quality with cold pressing. “First” means that it’s from the initial press of the olives. After that, the remnants will be pressed again to eek out any lingering oil, but these subsequent presses produce a lower quality of oil. 

Avoid Pomace

After the first couple presses, the sludge/remnant matter is called pomace. There’s still a little bit of oil left in this, but it’s of the lowest quality. If your bottle of olive oil says “pomace” on it, you’re consuming bottom of the barrel (literally).

Store in a Dark Place

When overexposed to light, your olive oil will go bad. That’s why you often see evoo sold in dark bottles.

Other Fun EVOO Facts

I had no idea that olive oil had the same type of fan base as wine. Bill could have talked passionately about EVOO all day—all week even.

  • Color Doesn’t Matter: The color of an olive oil isn’t indicative of its quality. During tastings, EVOO experts will actually sip from black cups so as not to be influenced by appearance.
  • Organic Isn’t Necessarily Important: Say whaaaat. I was totally surprised when Bill said this. There’s a saying in Italy about olive trees that essentially translates to “treat me poorly and I will make you rich.” Apparently, the less you fuss with olive oil trees, the better the crop and higher the yield. Bill rationalized that there isn’t as great an incentive to use pesticides and chemicals in growing olives because they tend to grow better without interference. In my opinion, organic is never a bad choice to make, but I think the point here is that while it’s vital to buy certain foods organic because they can be highly contaminated (check out the list HERE), olive oil is a lot safer to buy inorganic.

We did a tasting during class of vegetable oil, rancid extra virgin olive oil and quality extra virgin olive oil, and I can confidently say that I have been cooking with rancid evoo for, like, ever. Damnit. EVOO that was harvested, cold-pressed and bottled in the same place is drastically better in taste and texture. Going forward, I’m definitely going to shell out the extra couple dollars for quality evoo at the grocery store!

How to Buy the Right Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Whoa that was a long post! Hopefully you learned something from it though. 🙂 To avoid it getting any lengthier, I’m going to hold off on sharing the recipes we made in class for another day.

Happy Friday, everyone—enjoy your weekend!

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P.S. Just want to clarify that the class wasn’t promoting that particular brand of EVOO pictured in the post–more so just any and all brands that provide quality product and offer transparency about where the olives come from.

 

Why Parsley Is a Juicing Superfood

Why Parsley Is a Juicing Superfood (health benefits)

One of my go-to ingredients when whipping up a green juice in the morning is parsley. And for good reason. In all the documentaries I’ve watched on plant-based diets and juicing, and many of the books I’ve read on similar topics, this little green herb comes up time and time again paired with words like “cleanser” and “detoxifier.”

Check out some of the health benefits of parsley and you’ll see why I think it’s such a juicing superfood:

  • Parsley helps remove heavy metals from the body. When heavy metals (a major source of free radicals) enter the body, they set up shop in and enlarge fat cells and disrupt normal tissue function.
  • It’s a diuretic. This property helps prevent bloating and water retention by flushing out those kidneys.
  • Parsley is packed with vitamins and minerals. It’s high in Vitamins K, A, C and E, in particular.
  • It’s a cardiovascular system superhero. Not only is parley great for cleansing and purifying the bloodstream, but it also contains folic acid, which is great for heart health.
  • Anemic people + parsley = BFFs. It’s high in iron!

A digestive aid, a detoxifier, high in antioxidants—parsley packs a punch in the health benefits department, but it’s typically consumed in very limited quantities (usually as a garnish). A great way to get more parsley into your diet is to add it to green juices. I’ve posted a couple of juice recipes containing parsley in the past, but don’t be afraid to add half a bunch of the herb to just about any green juice combo you want. One disclaimer, though–I’ve read that pregnant women shouldn’t consume high amounts of parsley because it can induce contractions.

Click image for recipe.

Green Juice Green Juice

 

 

 

Do you ever juice parsley?

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