Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tip Tuesday–Olive Oil

I hope your day has been as pretty as ours here has been. It sure looks like spring is on its way – finally!
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Today’s tips are about olive oil, an ingredient that has become essential for cooking and many other uses. Information about the history, cultivation and harvesting of olives is quite extensive, and I’ll try to provide tidbits that you may find interesting. The picture above is of immature green olives.

Olives are a traditional Mediterranean product, and olive harvesting goes back as far as the 8th Millennium BC. They were turned into oil by 4500 BC. From the family Oleaceae, olives are the fruit of olea europaea. Olive oil is the fat produced by a procedure called “pressing”. There are many uses for olive oil, including cooking, cosmetics, oil lamp fuel, soaps and pharmaceuticals. Also, the oil has long had religious symbolism for different religions.

Olive oil is produced in many areas around the world. Spain does about 43.8% of the world’s production, Greece produces about 12.1%, Syria 6.1% and Portugal 5%. In the United States olives are grown in Arizona, California and Texas.

The oils are graded according to their processing and acidity, and there are several grades:

Extra Virgin – from the first pressing of the olives, with an acidity under 1%. This product is best for salads and drizzling, but not for cooking. It also can become rancid very quickly.
 
Virgin – 1 to 3.3% acidity, and can be from either the first or second pressing.

Pure – 3.3% acidity or less. It is extracted using heat or chemicals, and can contain refined olive oil.

Refined – heated to remove flavors, color and aroma.

Light – best grade for cooking. The term “light” refers to flavor.

The higher grades have more flavor due to being less processed, while the lower grades are milder in flavor.

Olive oil is best stored in metal containers or dark glass in a dark, cool place. Do not keep it near heat sources, such as the kitchen stove.

Health Information:

Olive oil has no cholesterol, contains monounsaturated fats (good for HDL cholesterol), provides antioxidants and vitamin E.  A tablespoon of the oil has about 125 calories, almost no carbs and no sodium.

Uses:

1) Rub paint or sticky substances off hands.

2) Put a little on a cotton ball to remove eye makeup.

3) Use a small amount as a skin moisturizer.

4) Use as a shoe polish or a leather conditioner.

5) Put some on a cotton ball to oil squeaky hinges.

6) Use the oil to put a shine on stainless steel appliances.

7) Use before shaving to soften and prepare skin.

8) Mix 3 or 4 tablespoons with your favorite essential oil for a soothing bath oil.

9) Use olive oil to remove stickers and their sticky residue.

10) Add 1/4 teaspoon to your kitty’s food to prevent hairballs.

11) Use as lamp oil.

12) Remove chewing gum from hair – just rub in and leave on for 5 to 10 minutes.

13) To coat and soothe an irritated throat, swallow about a tablespoon or so.

14) Warm a few tablespoons, rub into damp hair, massage in and leave on for about 30 minutes – makes a good conditioner.

15) Rub on to soothe psoriasis or diaper rash.

Cooking:

Olive oil is great for salad dressings. Drizzle it with some balsamic vinegar on a plate of fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and basil for a delicious Caprese Salad. Mix oil, garlic, balsamic vinegar and dried oregano (or Italian seasoning) for a dipping oil for ciabatta or French bread.
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One of nature’s mysteries! This little crocus grew right through the dried leaf in my front flower bed.
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Tomorrow is National Chocolate Caramel Day. Thursday is the Vernal Equinox – first day of Spring! Happy, Happy! Maybe that’s why it’s also the International Day of Happiness.

For the full listing of observances, please see the “Holidays” page.
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“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant.”

(Robert Louis Stevenson)
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

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