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The health benefits of using extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) have been well documented through the years. Studies indicate that regular incorporation of EVOO in a person’s diet can help reduce the chance of a litany of diseases, including cancer, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and even depression. Although it’s easy to find EVOO in virtually any grocery store, it’s important to know that not all olive oils are equal. Maximize the all the benefits that EVOO has to offer with these tips on how to select the best oil out there and how to keep it fresh once you’ve found it.

First, let’s start with the basics—What Makes Olive Oil “Extra Virgin”?

When an olive oil is labeled as being “extra virgin” it means that the oil is extracted by simply pressing the olives without use of any chemicals or additional processes (which are used to create other grades of olive oil, such as “refined,” “light,” or “pure”). EVOO must also meet rigorous chemical standards, determined by laboratory testing, and must have a pure olive taste without any defects in the flavor.

A lot of oils may say they’re “extra virgin,” but many credible reports reveal that nearly 80% of olive oils labeled “extra olive oil” are not, with additional studies indicating the number of fraudulent producers is continuing to rise.

So how can you find authentic EVOO among so many fakes? Firstly, true EVOO is generally more expensive than its competition. Although a cheaper price might initially seem attractive, keep in mind that you are paying for quality when you shell out a few additional dollars per bottle. Secondly, olive oils that have been produced according to the vigorous requirements of extra virgin designation will have DOP labeling on the bottle. DOP, short for Denominazione di Origine Protetta (“protected designation of origin” in Italian), means that the olive oil has been produced following the strict guidelines created for EVOO labelling.

Once you’ve purchased a reputable, quality EVOO, it’s important to treat it right! Here are some tips to guarantee optimal enjoyment from your oil:

-Avoid exposure to heat. To best preserve your EVOO, store it in a cool setting (optimal temperature is between 50 to 60 degree Fahrenheit)
-Keep your EVOO away from direct light. Olive oil should always be stored in a dark place in a dark glass, aluminum, or ceramic container. (EVOO packaged in a clear bottle is an automatic tip-off it might not be the real deal.)
-Keep EVOO tightly sealed. Leaving your container of olive oil open and exposed to air is the fastest way to spoil its quality and taste. Be sure your EVOO-approved container is properly sealed before and after each use.
-Use your EVOO in a timely fashion. EVOO is best when it’s its freshest, and generally can only maintain its “extra virgin” traits for approximately 18 to 24 months (when stored in the ideal conditions).

Want to learn even more about EVOO? Join us the week of Oct. 30 for our Olive Harvest program! Our estate is surrounded by olive groves that produce our own olive oil, Osco, sold in Italy and the US. The week will include strolls through our olive groves to assist or or just have fun watching the harvest. In addition to participating in the harvest and visiting the local mill, you will experience an olive oil tasting to learn what distinguishes truly great oil from the commercial varieties bought at most stores. We will visit one of the oldest and largest olive trees in all of Europe and use our own Osco olive oil throughout four hands-on cooking lessons. Book your experience today!