Beyond its kitchen function and flavor, Spanish Extra Virgin olive oil is hailed as the healthiest ingredient for cooking, dressing and dipping - let’s find out just what makes it so special!
Olive oil is, by now, a pantry staple in many homes across the country. But the extra virgin kind is not merely a functional cooking oil, nor is it only valued for its flavor by chefs in #RestaurantsFromSpain. This golden-green elixir is hailed as the healthiest ingredient for cooking, dressing and dipping. And which country produces half of the world’s supply? That’s right, Spain is the biggest producer of Extra Virgin olive oil. So, on Extra Virgin Olive Oil Day (September 30th), let’s find out more about why EVOO is so special, as well as the different varieties.
Extra Virgin olive oil is unrefined and cold-pressed to create a natural source of monounsaturated fat - this process helps the oil maintain its vitamins, minerals and antioxidant content. It typically has higher levels of polyphenols, which are thought to help prevent disease and support healthy aging (Spain does have the third longest life expectancy globally…). As well as the health benefits, this means it has more flavor - usually fruity and peppery nuances. So the tastier it is, the better it is for you!
There are literally hundreds of olive varieties in Spain but there are a few which, over the years, have become the most popular for producing the best Extra Virgin olive oil. Some EVOO varieties to look out for:
Picual - This olive grows in abundance in Spain and is mainly used for making olive oil. Picual has a robust flavor sometimes with slight bitterness, reminiscent of herbs and green tomatoes.
Arbequina - Named after its home, the Catalan town of Arbeca, this olive has a pronounced fruitiness that produces a mellow olive oil, making it good for dressing dishes and dipping.
Cornicabra - This olive produces oil similar to picual, but with a more intense taste that is both bitter and peppery. More often than not, olive oil from cornicabra olives smells like green apples.
Hojiblanca - Not as sharp tasting as picual or connicabra, the hojiblanca olive oils from southern Spain are fresh flavored, with notes of grass and perfect for both cooking and as a garnish.
From piquant to mild, there’s likely to be an EVOO to match your desired use, dish, or even your mood. Try tasting a few different varieties to discover your go-to.