Do You Know Your Olive Oil?

Hands up if you're an olive lover! There's a ton of mystique around these ancient fruits and even an entire philosophy on love regarding olives in the popular TV series How I Met Your Mother: for every successful symbiotic relationship, there requires an olive lover and an equal but opposite olive hater. Better yet, olives are the only fruits that produce a natural oil and olive oil is no stranger to the health conscious. We spent the day at Willow Creek Olive Estate recently to learn all about the growing, harvesting, producing and the tasting of their multi-award winning olive oil. Here are a few fascinating facts we learnt:

Did you know?

1. The difference between Virgin and Extra Virgin Olive Oil is that the former contains a free acidity below 2%, less than 35% defects and a fruity flavour, while Extra Virgin Olive Oil is natural and unrefined with a free acidity below 0.8%, zero defects and a fruity flavour. Ultimately, Extra Virgin is purer, healthier and tastier as it is the first press. The lower the natural free acidity, the higher the quality of the Extra Virgin Olive Oil and the higher the smoking point. 2. All olives go black. If they're green, they've just been harvested earlier than black olives. But aside from the cultiver, of which there are many, there is no difference in colour. 3. Although olives originated in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Western Cape's terroir - and that specifically of Willow Creek's Nuy Valley - is perfectly suited to the cultivation of olives. 4. Extra Virgin Olive Oil can be divided into three styles: delicately fruity, medium fruity and intensely fruity. 5. The more intense the flavour, the longer the shelf life, so it's more economical to go for the most flavourful, bold Olive Oil. Generally, the shelf life is 2 years. 6. Extra Virgin Olive Oil has a very high smoking point at 210ºC, which means it can be safely heated to high temperatures. 7. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is actually (technically) cheaper than other oils, since it can be reused up to 5 times. It is highly heat stable, and contrary to common knowledge, its chemical composition remains unchanged in high heat. 8. Air is the worst enemy of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, since it turns the oil and flavanoids rancid. Keep that bottle closed! 9. Do not store Extra Virgin Olive Oil in the fridge because the condensation inside the fridge will promote oxidation, and then it will solidify. 10. Extra Virgin Olive Oil contains an anti-inflammatory phenolic compound called Oleocanthal that causes the rupture of cancerous cells that releases enzymes and causes cell death without harming healthy cells. In this way, cancer cells are killed by their own enzymes. 11. All Extra Virgin Olive Oils are high in anti-oxidants, especially Vitamin E and sterols which fight free radicals. They also contain high levels, up to 85%, of monounsaturated fatty acids which maintain the healthiest cholesterol balance. For more info, visit