The olive harvest takes place between March and June/July in the Southern Hemisphere; the fresh oils are available by August/September.
Olive oil can be used for all types of cooking.
Yes. Olive oil is more heat stable than the highly polyunsaturated seed oils and can be re-used many times for frying.

The smoke point of EVOO is 2070C; once olive oil is refined, the smoke point increases to 2380C. The high smoke point of EVOO is due to its chemical composition, including the presence of natural antioxidants. Normal frying temperature is around 1600C.

The “smoke point” of an oil or fat is the temperature at which it begins to break down; both flavour and nutritional degradation begin at this temperature.

Start by choosing EVOO oil with a “best before” date on the label, and preferably also a date of harvest. EVOO begins to deteriorate within a few months of extraction. Try and buy as close to source as possible. Certification seals are generally a good guarantee of quality and authenticity. In the South African context, look for EVOO with the SA Olive Commitment to Compliance (CTC) seal.
Keep your olive oil as air tight as possible. It is best stored in a sealed, dark container (glass or other material) and kept in a cool, dark place. If buying large quantities, decant the oil into smaller containers to protect it from air until being used. Once a container has been opened, it should preferably be used within 2 months. Do not store olive oil in the fridge, as it will solidify and condensation will promote oxidation.
The process is relatively simple: olives are harvested from the trees, cleaned and crushed with a hammer mill into a paste. The paste is mixed (malaxed) to allow small oil droplets to combine into bigger ones. The oil is then separated from other components, i.e. water and solids, using centrifuges (or presses in older facilities). The oil is then filtered and bottled.
Olive oil does not mature with age – it should be consumed as fresh as possible to derive most advantage from the culinary as well as health benefit. EVOO is generally given a shelf life of 24 months.
The high levels of polyphenols in EVOO are strongly antioxidant and fight the free radicals in our bodies. Excess free radicals cause oxidative stress and have been linked to many forms of cancer.

EVOO is rich in Vitamins E, A, D and K. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant.

The antioxidants also maintain the integrity of the oil by protecting it from oxidation.

EVOO is unique amongst vegetable oils in that it can be consumed in its natural state without any need for refining. The refining process that other vegetable oils require in order to be fit for human consumption destroys these valuable antioxidants as well as the flavour components, minerals and vitamins.

Filtered EVOO is not better than unfiltered, but will have longer shelf life.
Olive oil comes in a multitude of shades; colour is not an indication of quality and green olive oils are not better than others. Choose olive oil based on taste and flavour, rather than colour.
PPP (Pyreopheophytins a) and DAG (a,2-Diacylglycerols) are indicators of freshness of olive oil. Their correlation with sensory defects has been proven to be higher than that of traditional quality tests. DAGs are indicators of the initial quality of the oil, whereas PPPs are not influenced by initial quality. Empirical evidence has shown PPPs to increase by 6-8% per year and DAGs to decrease by 20-25% per year.
Out of more than 2000 olive cultivars found around the world, there are at least 20 different cultivars grown in South Africa. The more popular types of olives used to make EVOO in South Africa are:

  • Leccino – produces an oil with soft, subtle herbaceous flavours.
  • Frantoio – a typical Tuscan varietal, with strong green overtones.
  • Coratina – can produce a rather bitter oil.
  • Favolosa – specifically selected for oil production and produces an intensely fruity oil.
  • Mission – produces a delicate oil which is best consumed within 6–9 months; more suited to table olive production
  • Kalamata – a table olive cultivar which makes a very delicate oil.
Olive oil contains high levels of monounsaturated fatty acids, around 65 – 85%, which is more than most cooking oils. This promotes a healthy cholesterol balance, which protects the heart and arteries from plaque build-up.

The monounsaturated fats in olive oil decrease the low density lipoproteins (LDL) levels in our bloodstream, while increasing the high density lipoproteins (HDL) levels, hence achieving the most desirable balance of these fractions. The monounsaturated fat can also benefit non insulin-dependent diabetics.

Quality olive oil is rich in healthy antioxidants and anti-inflammatories (which are responsible for the bitterness or pungency of the oil).

FFA indicates the breakdown of the basic fat structure of an oil, either due to poor-quality fruit or delayed extraction of the oil after harvest. Peroxide is an indicator of oxidisation, through breakdown by free radicals or exposure to light.The parameters for extra virgin grade are FFA < 0.8% and Peroxide < 20 meq/kg. High FFA almost always means poor oil, whereas low FFA does not always guarantee high quality.
EVOO should be accurately labelled to indicate the following:

  • the oil is completely natural and unadulterated, with no additives;
  • the oil is free of any defects – not rancid, winey, musty, fusty etc.;
  • the oil has a fruity characteristic;
  • the oil has a free acidity level of LESS than 0.8%;
  • the oil has been cold-extracted which indicates that it retains all its aromas, natural antioxidants and minerals.
One needs to differentiate here between an olive oil blended from different olive cultivars and one blended between olive and other oils, for example canola oil. The former is commendable, while the latter is simply a marketing gimmick to reduce costs.

The blend of different olive varietals (or cultivars) in an EVOO result in a more balanced oil with a specific style or characteristic. Many producers choose to blend different olive oils to maintain a more consistent product every year, while others offer individual varietals display unique characteristics.

The Canola and Olive Oil Blends masquerade as olive oils, but the consumer has no guarantee of the quality nor the amount of olive oil in the blend.

Lampante oil is the product of bad fruit or careless processing; it is intended for refining or for technical use is NOT fit for human consumption unless refined.
Extra virgin olive oil is the least processed of all olive oils and the richest in healthy components. It is totally unrefined and thus closest to a natural, fresh olive juice. EVOO conforms to two tests: 1) chemical and 2) organoleptic or taste test. It has no off flavours, only positive attributes.

Other grades of olive oil include (in decreasing order of quality):

  • Virgin Olive Oil
  • Refined Olive Oil
  • Refined and Virgin Olive Oil Blends
  • Olive-Pomace Oil
Olive oil is the natural juice extracted from the olive fruit.
EVOO displays a wide spectrum of flavours and aromas – of which fruitiness is an essential characteristic.

Fruitiness, detected in the nose, should be characteristic of green or ripe olives and can be associated with nuances of green grass, dry grass, almond, walnut, pine kernels, apple, green banana, tomato or wild berry.

These delicious flavours are largely influenced by the cultivar used, the terroir and harvest maturity.  Greener, fresh grassy notes are associated with green, early harvested fruit, while ripe notes are associated with late harvested fruit.

When tasting olive oil, the tongue should perceive a measure of bitterness, which should be pleasant, not too harsh, while the absence of bitterness is associated with sweetness.

Mouthfeel will indicate sensations of density/limpidity or fattiness. Pungency or peppery, acrid notes, sensed in the cheeks and throat, usually as an aftertaste is associated with phenolics and is a desirable attribute.

Fruitiness, bitterness and pungency should all be balanced in harmony in a high quality oil. Although a measure of personal preference is involved in oil tasting, it is important to realise that a defective oil (rancid, winey, musty, fusty, etc.) will spoil food, while a good quality EVOO will enhance the flavor of food.

The country of origin alone is not an indication of quality. Most countries produce good and not-so-good olive oils. While some countries may boast a long tradition of olive oil making, there are now many “new world” countries producing top quality EVOO. These countries have leapfrogged the industry and their quality is generally higher than the old world producers. Always look for the freshest EVOO and rely on your taste and personal preference.
EVOO costs much more to produce and is accepted as being the best quality oil available; as such it commands a higher retail price. Olive oil is generally an expensive product since the small fruit is grown on large trees under specific Mediterranean –type climatic conditions. Trees take long to come into full production, trees bear relatively poorly and usually only every second year. Harvesting is normally done by hand, which is costly and labour intensive. The fruit yields, on average, about 16% oil, and requires specialised imported (and expensive) stainless steel machinery to extract the oil from the fruit efficiently.

EVOO is, according to international legislation, the highest quality grade of olive oil available. Genuine EVOO involves good care and high levels of management all along the process from growing, harvesting, handling, extraction, decanting to packaging and storage.

Cheaper grades of olive oil are therefore of poorer quality, and cheap EVOOs are suspect. You normally get what you pay for.