The origin of extra virgin olive oil
The history of extra virgin olive oil has very ancient origins, just think for example of the Bible and its olive branch. The first plants grew in Israel, but it was the Greeks who wintered its processing for oil production and later the Romans. Since ancient times, olive oil has been used in cooking and thus became the cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet. It was also used as a medicine and to create cosmetics, creams that could make the skin very supple and soft.
It was the Romans, however, who spread the cultivation of olives throughout the territories subjected to them, and in this period Olive Oil was also used in place of money for the payment of duties. The Romans also further perfected milling and extraction techniques and began to classify the various oils according to the time the Olives were pressed.
The fall of the Roman Empire also marked a temporary halt in the development of culture related to the cultivation of the Olive tree, which, however, was now established in all regions of the Mediterranean. It was finally only around 1100 AD that Olive cultivation actually took hold again in Italy, and by the beginning of the Renaissance, around 1300 AD, Olive Oil was already the most popular condiment in the Mediterranean, while in northern Europe people continued to use more animal fats.
It was in the 1700s that agronomists began to recognize the various types of Olive trees and distinguish them according to their geographical origin and properties. In the 1900s, thanks to Italian and Greek immigrants, Extra virgin olive oil experienced a global spread throughout North America. Although still, animal products such as butter or cream were favored in cooking until the revaluation of the “Mediterranean diet.“
Extra virgin olive oil in the present day and sicilian quality
Today Italy and Spain are the largest producers of extra virgin olive oil, although Greece is still very active. There are about 30 varieties of olives grown in Italy today, and each produces a particular oil with its own unique characteristics. In Sicily, the olive plant has found fertile soil and favorable climate with mild temperatures.
Several varieties of olives are grown in Sicily, 80 percent involve the cultivation of: biancolilla, cerasuola, moresca, oglialora messinese, santagatese, nocellara del belice, nocellara etnea, and tonda iblea. Biancolilla is the oil produced from fragrant flowers with a white and lilac color; it has a light and delicate flavor. Ideal as a condiment rather than for cooking.
Sicily is among the top regions in Italy for olive and oil production and the olive harvest, mainly done by hand, starting from September until December. Popular uses of Sicilian olives also include crushed and seasoned olives, one of the most popular side dishes on our tables.
In the cultivation of Sicilian olive trees, no chemicals or machinery are used to harvest the olives . That is why Sicilian extra virgin olive oil is so good, it is genuine, healthy and follows traditions. The hand-picked olives are placed in special boxes which are then transported to the mill, which must then be filtered.
An excellent connoisseur knows that choosing the right time to harvest allows you to taste an extra virgin olive oil with perfect organoleptic characteristics.
Extra virgin olive oils PDO and PGI
The extra virgin olive oils DOP of Sicily are currently six and enhance high quality productions:
- Sicilian extra virgin olive oil PDO Monti Iblei
- Sicilian extra virgin olive oil PDO Valli Trapanesi
- Sicilian extra virgin olive oil PDO Val di Mazara
- Sicilian extra virgin olive oil PDO Monte Etna
- Sicilian extra virgin olive oil PDO Valle del Belice
- Sicilian extra virgin olive oil PDO Valdemone
Sicilian extra virgin olive oil has also received the PGI (Protected Geographical Indication). The recognition of PGI Sicily was the second for the oil in Italy, after the PGI Toscana.