The origin of the olive tree has been lost in time, getting mixed up with the spreading of the Mediterranean civilizations, which for thousands of years controlled the destiny of the mankind and left their stamp on the Western culture.
The olive tree has spread to Europe, Africa, Asia and later on to Australia and America, with a life expectancy of over 1000 years.
The olive tree gives us the olive fruit, which is green color and becomes purple-black when it gets into full ripeness. The olive fruit is bitter and uneatable, due to its content of an alkaloid which is a natural chemical compound, that contains mostly basic nitrogen atoms.
Olive cultivars are classified into “Table Olives” and “Oil Olives”, which are classified according to their place of origin.
The most well known olive oil cultivars are the Koroneiki in Greece, the Picual in Spain, the Frantoio in Italy, the Picoline in France, the Mission in California, etc.
The most well known table olive cultivars are the Kalamata in Greece, the Manzanilla in Spain, the Ascolano in Italy, etc.
Olive oil is beneficial to human health and costs more than other vegetable oils. For that reason olive oil has a susceptibility to adulteration with other cheaper oils, for economic reasons.
The variety of the tree, the climate, the harvesting and extraction methods, determine the quality of the olive oil. The best extra virgin olive oil world wide is produced in the province of Laconia, South Greece. This is due to its rich soil.
To determine the origin of olive oil, DNA technologies have been used. Because the determination of the origin with such methods is very difficult, other non DNA methods are being used. It has been proven that chemical analysis is not a sufficient method for the assurance of the origin and authenticity of olive oil.
Legislation has established a Protected Denomination of Origin (PDO) of olive oil basins, for the protection of the producers and the consumers.
Olive oil traceability allows the oil to be traced through its entire production, back to its origin. Verifing the traceability of olive oil, prevents mislabeling and protects public health.
Because olive oil has countles health benefits, high quality of olive oil with specific characteristics, as specific olive variety and place of origin, is in demand and labeled accordingly.