I took a life-changing trip in 2001, backpacking through Europe. I'm so grateful for the privilege that I had/and still have to take that trip 20 years later. It was pre-Euro. Everything was still super cheap; I could eat like a king on a budget. I had an open Eurail pass to navigate anywhere I desired across the system. My parents entirely funded the trip as a post-college graduation gift. And I went solo using travel books and my ability to adapt. It was a gift that keeps on giving.
One vital gift I took away from that trip is my love for extra virgin olive oil. Whether it was Italy, Greece, or Spain, I consistently bathed my tongue in this delicious traditional staple with pasta, bright vegetables, or fresh bread. I was not used to consuming such copious amounts of oil, but I found myself diving into the Mediterranean lifestyle. I was in full swoon mode.
The habit stuck with me. I was such a convert that coming back home; I sought out all the ways to recreate the satiating and delicious food experiences across the pond. I will travel well off the beaten path if it's for a unique and healthy food experience. Even to this day, in Portland, I get hyped when I find a remarkable food discovery. One example would be Obon Shokudo and their kenchinjiru. I am bookmarking for myself to write about soups! 🍲
Let's get back to EVOO. It's a power-packed superfood that's been around for 8,000 years, in case you haven't gotten the word. It's a monounsaturated fat that can nourish the brain and body. It contains over 30 various phenolic compounds, potent antioxidants that help protect the body against free radicals, boost neurotransmission, and increase cognitive functions from memory retention to reasoning.1 I exclusively use it on my salads. I dip fresh bread in it. I cook with it. It’s my go-to. 👍🏼
What I want to highlight today is how to select and store olive oil. When I ran across Nicholas Coleman of Grove and Vine on one of my favorite podcasts here, I was drawn in. I reached out to Nicholas because of his passion, the backstory, and the art and science of making healthy and delicious extra virgin olive oil. Here is how he (and now I) look at my EVOO 👇🏽
Look for the 'harvest' date, not the 'best before’ date. Olive oil does not get better with age like wine. We want to think about our EVOO in terms of freshness. It's coming from fresh fruit. Yes, olives are a fruit—a stone fruit, to be exact.
Choose dark (amber) glass bottles. No plastic. Dark glass protects the oil from the deteriorating effects of light and the aging process. This is also why you want to store your oil in a cool, dark spot in a cabinet or pantry rather than on the countertop exposed to more light.
You want your olives to harvest in ONE place, not many different regions. We want to protect the freshness and overall sustainable and quality practices associated with our oil production.
I am sticking with the freshness trend—plan to consume your supply within three (3) months (2 is even more ideal).
Avoid "pure" or "light" on the labels. Oddly, "pure" is synonymous with "not high quality." "Light" means the olive oil has likely been mixed with some grain or seed oil. Seed and grain oils is a whole other blog post as well. 🤪
Finally, we as Americans are not known for our olive oil. My exception is The California Olive Ranch brand. Generally speaking, our best olive oil selections come from other parts of the world and will cost a bit more, between $20-40 for 500 mls.
For a great explanation on how we benefit and how to select your EVOO, watch this 📺