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Food

Olive Oils from Greece, Italy, Spain, and the U.S. Compared

NEW YORK – Olive oils from Greece, Italy, Spain, and the U.S. were recently compared in an article on Martha Stewart’s website, marthastewart.com (MS). The article offers a brief glimpse into the general differences between the olive oils, but those of us at The National Herald always prefer Greek extra virgin olive oil for its versatility and flavor.

The MS article notes that Greek olive oils are not as “well known” as Italian and Spanish olive oils, “but they're definitely worth checking out— after all, Greece is certainly famous for its olives,” adding that “14 percent of the country's agricultural land is covered by olive groves, a larger percentage than any other European country.”

“Many Greek olive oils have a smooth and welcoming taste, and you'll find plenty that are well priced yet are good enough to drizzle on food as a finishing oil that imparts color, rich flavor, and extra fullness,” MS reported, noting that “the Peloponnese region and Crete produce most of Greece's olive oil.”

Of Italian olive oils, MS reported that they “still dominate the market, with loads of options at many price points,” but added that consumers should “be aware… that regulations allow companies to purchase oil from many different countries in Europe [Greece among them], bottle it in Italy and then label it a ‘Product of Italy.’”

“In broad terms, olive oil from Italy varies greatly depending on the region; northern olive oils tend to be delicate and mild; ones from the central area are often stronger, with grassy notes; and those from the south, which accounts for the bulk of Italy's olive oil production, have a drier and more herbal flavor,” MS reported.

Spain “is home to more than 200 different olive varieties, and each one provides characteristic aromas and flavors,” MS reported, noting that “you'll find ones with intense and fruity flavors, and others with milder, less intense aromas and flavors,” and most Spanish olives are cultivated in “the southeastern part of the country, particularly in Andalusia.”

Spanish olive oil “tends to be more yellow… due to the country's temperate climate,” MS reported.

In the United States, California dominates olive oil production with “more than 400 producers; over 75 olive varieties grow there, which results in proprietary blends unique to California,” MS reported.

Vincent Ricchiuti, founder of Central San Joaquin Valley-based Enzo Olive Oil told MS about the freshness of California olive oil, explaining that "it takes less time for California olive oil to get from tree to bottle and then to your home pantry, meaning the finished product you're able to enjoy is much fresher and available at a much more affordable price than any olive oil imported from Europe."

“This is due in part to the fact that it takes less time to bottle and ship olive oil produced domestically, and also to the way olive trees in California are cultivated— producers can harvest faster because the trees are planted more densely,” MS reported, adding that “typically, California's dry climate produces olive oil with a more robust, nutty flavor.”

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