Olive oil is the oil solely obtained from the olive, a traditional tree crop of the Mediterranean Basin. It is mostly used in cooking, but also in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and soaps and as a fuel for traditional oil lamps. Olive oil is a natural juice which preserves the taste, aroma, vitamins and properties of the olive fruit. It is the only vegetable oil that can be consumed as it is - freshly pressed from the fruit. For us olive oil is simply great to cook with. We literally use it for most of our dishes including salads, appetizers, sandwiches, and fish. We love olive oils so much we sometimes even drink it as a substitute for coffee, put it in our hair instead of gel, feed it to our kids….(ok, now this is an exaggeration, but we do love olive oil very much). Besides it being a great ingredient in many dishes, olive oil is known to have great health benefits and hence the high consumption of this oil in the Southern European area. (Click her to learn about health benefits).
Olive oil is used throughout the world, but especially in the Mediterranean countries such as Italy, Spain, France, Greece, and Portugal. Over 750 million olive trees are planted worldwide out of which 95% are in the Mediterranean region. At more than one-third of the world's production, Spain is the top producer of olive oil in the world with 1,325,000 tons, Tunisia and Italy trailing right behind in 2nd and 3rd place with around 230,000 tons
Among the many different olive varieties in Spain the most important are the Arbequina, Picual, Cornicabra, Hojiblanca, and Manzanilla de Jaén; in Italy you will find mainly Pendolino, Frantoio, Moraiolo and Leccino; in Greece, Koroneiki; in France, Picholine; in California, Mission; in Portugal, Galega; in Croatia, Oblica and Leccino.
In North America, Italian, Spanish and Greek olive oils are the best-known, and top-quality extra-virgin oils and they are often sold at high prices, packaged nicely to compliment the content.