The Greek poet Homer called olive oil ‘liquid gold’, and rightly so. Not only is it delicious – it is high on the list of anybody interested in maintaining a healthy diet. An olive oil-rich diet is healthy because olive oil contains oleic acid - a monounsaturated fatty acid that helps to keep the heart healthy and protects against diabetes and other ailments. Thanks to its traditional production methods, olive oil is also increasingly valued for its low impact on the environment compared to other oils.
Mediterranean sunshine in a bottle
The Mediterranean is Europe’s main olive oil producing region, with a climate that is ideal for growing flavour-rich olives. The main producers in the region are Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal and the subtle differences in flavours and aroma of oils from these countries offer a taste cruise around the shores of the Mediterranean.
Many regionally produced extra virgin olive oils and virgin olive oils are marked with “Geographical Indications” (GIs) which certify their high quality and protect their authentic production methods. Of the 159 olive and other oils with PDO and PGI protection, 30 olive oils are protected in the EU-Mexico Free Trade Agreement.
These and the other wide range of oils produced across the Mediterranean region can be used as a delicious and healthy alternative to other types of fat in Mexican dishes – such as refried beans, to fry shrimp or chicken, as a delicious salad dressing or in salsa. While waiting for a meal to cook, a hungry chef could also take a moment to enjoy some tasty Elia Kalamatas (PDO) or Prasines Elies Chalkidikis (PDO) table olives.
Tasty, healthy, traditional
A voyage of discovery of EU olive oils is only restricted by the variety of olive oils available, and this is extremely diverse. Virgin, extra-virgin, organic or not, more gold or green in colour… the range of EU olive oils on offer is a treat for all your senses. Olive oil is a highly guarded treasure in Europe and many oils are geographically protected, such as Aprutino Pescarese (PDO), a fruity extra virgin olive oil from Italy’s Abruzzo region, or the heady, viscous Sitia Lasithiou Kritis (PDO) oil from Greece, for which the olives are harvested with small wooden sticks, to avoid bruising the fruit.
Ranging in colour from golden yellow to green, Antequera oil (PDO) from Spain is a light oil with faint to medium hints of bitterness and piquancy, while Portugal’s Azeites da Beira Interior (PDO) oils are characterised by their rich colour, distinct aroma, and fruity overtones.
Other EU countries also have a culture of olive cultivation and are not-to-be-missed destination on our Mediterranean cruise. With a slightly bitter taste and fruity aroma, extra virgin Slovenske Istre oil (PDO) from Slovenia is especially high in natural antioxidants. Another delicious option is Croatia’s Istrian olive oil, which is bright green and fragrant with a complex aroma of green fruit and aromatic herbs.
A culture of safety, a culture of excellence
Europe’s olive oil producers have perfected olive cultivation and oil production techniques over the centuries. With a rich history of producing top-quality olive oil, it is no surprise that Europe is the world’s leading producer, accounting for over two thirds of global supplies.
One thing that all European olive oils have in common, however, is the high levels of safety that underpin their production. Europe has in place stringent traceability rules that allow consumers to trace every batch of olive oil back to where it was produced. What’s more, many of Europe’s producers also apply organic production standards when growing their olives. The EU also cooperates closely with the International Olive Council to limit the amount of contaminants in olive oil – so that consumers around the world can enjoy discovering the rich flavours and textures of Europe’s olive oil, confident in the knowledge that it is not only delicious, but safe.