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OLIVE OIL

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Widely used in Mediterranean countries, olive oil is a highly valuable and expensive oil and is well known for its health and medicinal benefits. It is prized primarily as it is the best and healthiest type of oil. Olive oil is considered good for the heart and it is primarily helpful in keeping the heart and arteries in shape. Frequently referred to in the Bible and other ancient historical texts, it is today high in demand because it is a healthier choice. It is a staple part of Mediterranean cuisine and therefore is a significant crop in agriculture of the area.

With the popularisation of Italian and other Mediterranean cuisine around the world and the knowledge of the health benefits of olive oil, there is an increased demand for it and this has pushed up its value. The olive tree is widely cultivated throughout this region. In the ancient times, the Greeks presented the olive leaves to the athletes at the Olympic games as it was believed that this would increase the physical ability of those who used it and that its powers were easily transferable to its users.

Green olives and black olives are two kinds of olives. They are washed thoroughly in water to remove oleuropein, a bitter carbohydrate. Sometimes they are also soaked in a solution of sodium hydroxide in order to accelerate the process. Olive trees are now grown around the world in South Africa, Chile, Australia, Mediterranean Basin, Israel, Palestine, Spain, California, New Zealand and in Argentina.

The Olive Tree

The Olive (Olea europaea) is a species belonging to the family Oleaceae, which is native to the coastal areas of the Mediterranean region, till areas like northern Iran. Its fruit, the olive is widely cultivated as it is an important part of the diet of these regions. Olive oil is extracted from the evergreen olive tree or shrub, which does not grow to much height and is harvested when yet unripe or even later when it starts to take purple hues at the ripening stage. The olive tree is cultivated for good quality wood, beneficial leaves and the fruit ,olive which is taken in raw form or used to extract oil. The fruit is bitter in taste due to the presence of Oleuropin, a carbohydrate and it is fermented or processed with lye or by soaking it in brine. Oleuropin is removed by use of water and/or with sodium hydroxide. Crushing and Pressing of the fruit is the main method of extracting olive oil and they are subsequently processed to create varieties of the oil.

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