Almost everyone uses it and loves it, but only a few know it really well. For this reason, over the decades, there have been many myths built up about extra virgin olive oil. Wrong but widespread beliefs, which perhaps we should clear up.
Let’s look together at the most important myths to dispel:
Even if time favours some gastronomic products such as cheese, wine and alcohol in general, this is not the case for oil. Oil’s organoleptic properties in fact tend to deteriorate with time: the aromatic notes tend to tail off and the oxidation process advances. It is true that extra virgin olive oil doesn’t have a real expiry date but only an indication of the preferred date of consumption, however, it should always be considered that it’s at its best above all when it’s fresh.
In reality, the piquancy is not correlated to acidity. The “tingling” caused by certain oils indicates that they were obtained from fruit harvested before it was completely ripened. Acidity, on the other hand, is not perceptible to the taste but, the lower it is, the higher the quality of the olive oil.
This is the same misconception as before: there is no link between the taste of an extra virgin olive oil and its calorific content. Rather, it is true that if the oil is flavoursome you need less of it, and this indirectly helps to consume fewer calories.
Nothing could be more wrong. On the contrary, it is excellent because it’s very resistant to high temperatures. Certainly flavour comes into consideration (extra virgin olive oil has a rather marked flavour and tends to mask the original taste of the food to a greater extent) as does price (commonly used vegetable oils generally cost less).
“The greener it is, the better it is”
No: color, in general, is not related to quality. The color depends on various factors, including the degree of ripeness of the olives, the variety, the processing conditions in the oil mill and the subsequent conservation modalities. Normally, the greener extra virgins come from the first olives harvested, which are richer in aroma and antioxidants, but there are equally excellent extra virgin olive oils of a less pronounced green, more golden-yellow in tone.
“Traditional oil mills make the best oil”
I wouldn’t be so sure: in traditional mills, with millstones and thistle discs, the crushed olives remain in contact with the surrounding air for long periods, permitting oxidation that worsens the quality of the oil. Conversely, in modern mills, there is limited exposure to the air and higher hygiene standards are possible.
“The older the olive tree, the better the oil”
There is no basis for this credo: ancient trees rarely, if ever, yield better olives.
“Filtered oil isn’t genuine”
It depends! First, one wonders what is meant by “genuine”… What is true is that so-called “raw” oil, that has in other words not been subjected to the final filtering process, contains more water and particles of olive paste, which are not filtered out, and the oil is thus less stable over time, although it does contain fewer polyphenols. There is no marked difference in the taste of a filtered oil and an unfiltered one: they simply look different, and the filtered oil lasts longer.