1. Imported olive oils are better than South African olive oils
Spain, Greece and Italy do produce great olive oil, but they don’t send us that oil, they keep it for themselves! There is a reason that imported olive oil is so cheap, that’s because it’s the low quality oil that gets sent here. You get what you pay for! Much of the oil that is labelled extra virgin is not even extra virgin, but nobody is checking it.
By contrast, South African oil is checked by the SA Olive Association to ensure it is what it says it is. So look for the SA Olive Seal to be sure you are getting what you are paying for.
2. Olive oil improves with age
Olive oil is a fruit juice, and like any other fruit juice it’s at its best when it is freshly squeezed. Over time olive oil loses its flavour and health benefits so buy a quantity that you can finish within a year and make sure you store it in a cool, dark cupboard. Not in the fridge!
3. The colour of olive oil indicates the quality or strength of the oil
The colour of olive oils does vary dramatically, but the colour does not indicate the quality of the oil nor the strength of the oil. What does affect the colour of the oil is the types of olives used and when they were harvested.
Rather use the label of the oil to determine whether the oil is mild, medium or fruity. As for quality, see point 1 above!
4. You cannot cook with olive oil
This is a very pervasive myth, but it’s definitely not true. It is often said that olive oil has a low smoking point and that when it reaches that point is becomes carcinogenic. This is not true. The smoking point of olive oil may be lower when compared to ‘refined’ oils, which have had all their goodness removed. But the smoking point is actually between 200 and 220 degrees centigrade, which is far higher than most cooking requirements, even frying. One would only exceed that range if deep frying. You should not reach the smoking point of olive oil, but if you do, don’t worry, it’s not carcinogenic.
Olive oil will degrade slightly with heat, but it will still manage to retain some of its taste and health benefits which is what you want from it. So cook with it as much as you like, it’s good for you. The only thing to be aware of the fact that you get different flavour strength and we usually use a delicate flavour oil so that it does not overwhelm the dish.
5. ‘Light’ olive oils have less calories
All olive oils are 100% fat, which means they all have exactly the same number of calories. A light oil normally means it is light in flavour, so better for cooking (see point 4 above).
However, many light oils are not good quality. Rather choose an extra virgin that has a ‘delicate’ flavour profile. That way you get all the goodness and health benefits and the oil is still light enough to be used for cooking.
Find out more about South African olives and olive oils at Olive Central.
About the author:
Dax Villanueva has been blogging about food and related issues at Relax with Dax for more than a decade. Through his blogging he has learnt much and has a passion for sharing that information whenever possible.