LOCATION AND CLIMATE

 

As you might expect, olives grown in cooler areas where there is more moisture (rainfall and dew) exhibit leaner, more restrained characteristics.  This doesn’t however mean that great oil can now be made in Iceland – you need a minimum amount of sunshine to make your Extra Virgin Olive Oil taste remarkable, similarly to tomatoes or stone fruit.

Olive trees are sensitive to winter freeze (the Casaliva cultivar is more resistant to cold, hence being grown in the Garda region).  It is also easier to farm organically where the climate is more stable and less chemical sprays are required to keep the trees healthy.

OLIVE MATURITY

 

Here’s the thing – all olives are green.  When they become fully mature, they turn black.
Olive maturity at the time of harvest is a major factor in flavour and quality: olives harvested earlier (green olives) feature more bitter, grassy characteristics, with lower yields and with the highest anti-oxidant content.  The oil is a much more intense green colour and has a longer shelf-life.  In terms of production, milling can take longer with green olives (a longer malaxation - the action of slowly churning milled olives to release droplets of oil - is needed and can be more complicated) but the results are far superior!  Don’t choose olive oil from over mature fruit: it lacks all the potential goodness and flavour.

ATTENTION TO DETAIL IN GROVE AND MILL

 

People who care passionately about what they make and follow it personally every day have the capacity to create products with far higher quality, with integrity, and that taste of where they come from.  They are also able to do this by caring for the environment they inhabit.

FRANTOIO DI RIVA BOX

This box contains 6 bottles of extra virgin olive oil made exclusively by Frantoio di Riva from groves on the banks of lake Garda.

Frantoio di Riva, 46°PARALLELO green label x 3 bottles (50cl)
Frantoio di Riva, 46°PARALLELO organic white label x 1 bottle (50cl)
Frantoio di Riva, 46°PARALLELO blue label x 1 bottle (50cl)
Frantoio di Riva, ULIVA Garda Trentino DOP x 1 bottle (50cl)

The main health benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

We are always amazed by the incredible health benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and the science behind why and how it is such a superfood. We recently interviewed Dr Simon Poole to understand more, how the science is developing and how to ensure you use it in the right way to get the greatest benefit.  But we are often asked to summarise what makes EVOO so good for you, and so where better to turn than the Olive Wellness Institute, who have published a great article on it here.

We summarise the main points:

  1. EVOO is a great source of healthy fats and antioxidants
  2. EVOO can help you reduce the risk of heart disease
  3. EVOO can protect you against a stroke
  4. EVOO can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes
  5. EVOO is the best cooking oil
  6. EVOO makes your vegetables more nutritious
  7. EVOO might make your bones stronger
  8. EVOO might protect you against certain cancers
  9. EVOO is good for your brain health
  10. EVOO can contribute to your longevity

 

If you read our blog regularly you will already know that using EVOO every day helps you improve both mental and physical health. Just make sure the oil is as fresh as possibile since the health benefits are more prominent when it has been freshly milled.

JANUARY RESET

The January Reset is something many of us take advantage of.  It’s a moment to re-group somehow, look at our lives from a fresh perspective, set some new goals, re-balance our approach and keep ourselves in check.  Goodness knows, we all need that.

 

Following the indulgent month of December, it’s a good opportunity to reset our diet. Sitting over here in rural Italy, where life tends to move at a slower pace, it’s easy to look cynically at the myriad dietary fads that come and go – nutrition for us is centred around the seasons, even in large supermarkets you still can’t get out of season ingredients here.  And this is one of the key pillars of the Mediterranean diet – if you eat a tomato in August, it will be better for you (as well as having a superior flavour) than one eaten in the winter. This is of course also environmentally ethical as you’re consuming fewer food miles and therefore it has even greater appeal.

 

Something that we haven’t previously reset as a family however is our consumption of meat.  We don’t by any means eat meat every day but we are partial to properly reared and sourced meat.  This January, we have decided to cut meat out of our diet totally, in part just to see if we can and to see how we respond, but also as increasing environmental evidence is presented about the risks of consuming meat we feel we will all be urged to look at this balance in our lives for the future.

 

The great thing about this is that we’ve had to make more effort with vegetables, grains, pulses and dairy (we’ve tried not to just replace meat with fish).  We’ve spent a good deal of time with our noses in the cookery books and have already discovered some new family favourites that will become a part of our regular repertoire.   You can follow me on Instagram to hear more about what’s on our table.

 

Abstinence used to be reserved for lent in our culture, but in our secular era this now seems to have crept forwards to January.  If we manage to make it to the end of the month, there’s a chance we will repeat the exercise throughout the year at various points when we feel in need of a reset.

Oleocanthal

A phenomenal, naturally occurring compound in Extra Virgin Olive Oil that is an amazing anti-inflammatory.

I’m often asked why top quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil can prickle the back of your throat. It’s because of a naturally occurring compound called Oleocanthal. EVOO is the only cooking oil containing Oleocanthal and it has been shown to act as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) agent. Because of this, consumption of oleocanthal in your diet has been shown to reduce general inflammation in the body. That’s good news for all of us.

The quantity suggested in order to see the benefits is around 3-4 tablespoons per day (equivalent to a low dose of ibuprofen). This is perhaps more EVOO than you would think of consuming – you may need to work it in to a few more dishes… put it on your toast in the morning with avocado or tomato, put it over your soup or salad at lunch and integrate it where ever possible in to your dinner. But the benefits of taking something totally natural are of course huge.

Oleocanthal has also been shown to benefit arthritic pain and degenerative joint disease (osteoarthritis) as well as slowing its onset. It is also a compound of interest in cancer research due to its ability to inhibit the initiation of metastases of several cancer types. It’s still early stages from everything I’ve read but I’m sure anyone who has lived the horror of cancer would welcome news of anything that might help.

For a more in depth understanding, this article is pretty good: https://olivewellnessinstitute.org/article/oleocanthal-a-phenolic-compound-with-anti-inflammatory-action/

 

The concentration of oleocanthal varies from one Extra Virgin Olive Oil to another.  The highest values occur in oil where the olives are harvested early.  Certain cultivars also have higher concentrations naturally.  Coratina, Nocellara del Belice and Moraiolo all have particularly high values.

We’ve put together a box of oils with high polyphenol values for anyone interested in the health benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

https://www.frantoi.org/portfolio_page/to-your-good-health-box/

THE MAJOR BENEFITS OF OLIVE OIL VS COCONUT OIL

You may have seen some coverage in the media about the adverse properties of Coconut oil, which is pretty hard to digest if you’ve been using it relatively abundantly in your lives.   So, we’ve summarised the main reasons to switch it out of your life in favour of Olive oil (and we don’t even mention the flavour)

  1. Extra virgin olive oil out performs coconut oil in terms of lowering cholesterol and risk of heart disease.  It has been shown to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Read more about this here
  2. EVOO stabilises blood clotting, blood sugar and insulin levels.  Read more how it can benefit those with type 1 diabetes here.
  3. EVOO is based predominantly on heart healthy monosaturated fat vs almost 90% saturated fat in coconut oil.
  4. The best EVOO contains 160 times more vitamin E and 120 times more vitamin K than coconut oil. Vitamin E is a valuable antioxidant that helps protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals (the compounds that form when we convert food in to energy).  It is great for your skin, digestion, vision, reproduction and brain.Vitamin K plays an important role in blood clotting, bone metabolism and regulating blood calcium levels.  It’s such a pleasure to be able to raise your intake of these two important vitamins via food rather than with a tablet.
  5. EVOO has a more complex set of polyphenols (36 different types) vs 6 in coconut oil but also a far higher concentration.  Read more about polyphenols
  6. Extra Virgin Olive Oil has a smoke point of 207°C vs 176°C for coconut oil.  This just means if you cook on a gas stove in particular, you can worry less about burning your ingredients.  Read more about the smoke points of various oils
Frantoi - Olive Oil history

Olive Oil, an ancient medicine

Olive oil was used by the Ancient Greeks in an incredible variety of ways according to Tom Mueller, who wrote the fascinating book Extra Virginity. It was used as food, fuel, a skin lotion, a contraceptive, detergent, a preservative, pesticide, perfume, adornment, a cure for heart ailments, to relieve stomach aches and against hair loss, flatulence and excessive perspiration. Amazing!!

 

Pliny recorded that green olives and their oil are good for the stomach and in particular against seasickness. He stated that when mixed with wine, green olives can cure mouth and ear infections. Above all, Pliny mentions that the oil should be young, delicate and scented when used for medicinal purposes.

 

From a UK perspective, until just a few decades ago the only way to get hold of Olive Oil in Britain was at the Pharmacy, where it was available on prescription as Olive Oil B.P. (British Pharmacopoeia). This particular oil had passed the tests for purity specified in the British Pharmacopeoia such as specific gravity, refractive index, acid value, saponification value and iodine values all within a specified range. It had to pass further tests for absence of adulterants such as cottonseed, arachis and sesame oils. It’s incredible to see how our habits have changed so dramatically in just one generation.

 

Olive oil consists of glycerides, the fatty acid constituents that are chiefly oleic acid. It has proven properties as a demulcent (relieving inflammation or irritation, especially related to mucous) and is mildly laxative. Since the 20thC it has been prescribed in doses of 15–30ml, three times a day with meals in the treatment of gastric and duodenal ulcers in order to decrease the secretion of gastric juice. 
In the form of an emulsion it has been prescribed as part of a nitrogen-free diet during the treatment of renal failure.

It can be applied to the skin to remove incrustations in eczema and psoriasis.

It is used as a lubricant in massage.

It can also be used to soften ear wax.

 

For further information about specific health benefits of Olive Oil, please go to health.