Five Otters


The free fatty acid level of the oil is lower (0.8 or lower) in extra virgin olive oil than it is in Virgin Olive Oil. Extra Virgin Olive Oil has 0.8% or lower free fatty acid level; Virgin Olive Oil has 2.0 % or lower free fatty acid level (most probably ranging between 0.8 up to 2.0.)  Virgin also has a less distinctive flavor, a lower sensory quality. Chemical and quality sensory standards are used to differentiate the two types of oils. Chemical tests include: free fatty acid, peroxide value (PV) and ultra violet absorbency (UV). The higher the PV and UV values, the more likely the oil tastes and smells rancid. Extra Virgin Olive Oil must have zero sensory defects and some fruitiness, as well as clear flavor characteristics of the fruit used to make it.

Olives and olive oil have been around for centuries. Over the many years, olive oil was made by the pressing of slabs of stones pulled by horses (community mills used by many growers). The highest quality olive oil was from the first pressings of the day, when the stones were cold. As the day went on, the friction of the stones would heat up the olives being pressed. As the slabs heated up, there would be several pressings of olives in order to press out as much oil as possible, producing a lesser quality oil. After about 1960, the use of stone slabs for pressing became replaced with mechanized mills. The term pressing is no longer applicable for today’s olive oils, and has been replaced with the term milling. Today’s mills mechanically “extract” olive oil from the olives (without pressing) and the equipment can be set to a maximum temperature for operating, resulting in all the oil extracted cold. To be considered extra virgin or virgin, the olive oil is extracted cold and isn’t necessarily the first pass of the day of olives through the mill. To label extra virgin olive oil or virgin olive oil as first pressed and/or cold pressed is a non-descript marketing term today for extra virgin and virgin olive oil.

Extra-virgin olive oil contains antioxidant polyphenols that improve our cholesterol levels, reduce inflammation and lower blood pressure and blood sugar.  Olive oil also has been linked to lower risk for stroke, breast cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, pancreatitis and ulcerative colitis. (Source: Bottom Line Personal, July 15, 2014)

It appears to be a personal choice. Some growers use “orchard”, some use “grove”, and some use “farm”.  Since olives are fruit and many fruit tree growers use “orchard”, Five Otters decided to use orchard. According to the Georgia Department of Agriculture, an orchard is a grove, but a grove is not necessarily an orchard. An orchard is fruit and nut trees; a grove can be fruit and nut trees as well as any type of trees growing in groups without underbrush. Orchard and grove are almost interchangeable; an orchard is a grove, but a grove is not necessarily an orchard.

High quality extra virgin olive oil has a smoke point at 410 oF. USDA guidelines for frying with oil include olive oil on the list of preferred cooking oils and addressed health benefits of cooking with olive oil at higher temperatures (e.g., frying with olive oil).

Oftentimes, people have this question because of trying to interpret the various terms used for olive oil.  Some of this can be attributed to the transition around 1960 from olive pressing (using olive presses) to oil extraction (using mechanical mills where the temperature can be controlled). Today, extra virgin olive oil is the pure unadulterated juice that the mill has extracted from the olive: the oil. The olives used for the extraction were freshly harvested, quality olives milled within a day or two of harvest, the oil has been properly stored, bottled and handled. The oil is never subjected to chemicals or heat in production. The free fatty acid level of the oil is 0.8 or lower. It must have zero sensory defects (it has no smell or taste defects) and some fruitiness, as well as clear flavor characteristics of the fruit used to make it. Overall, it meets specific chemical and quality standards that can be lab certified.

Olives are a drupe (a type of fruit that has a thin skin and a single large stone inside that contains the seed). Examples of drupes include pistachios, nectarines, peaches, cherries, dates, almonds, cashews, coffee beans, coconut, plums and mangos. An olive fruit consists of the outer skin, the very hard stone (seed) in the center, and the fleshy part between the skin and the stone. Olives are full of oleuropein, a compound that makes them intensely bitter. Unlike some fruits, olives have a low sugar content and a very high oil content (approximately 25%). The ratio of water to oil content varies depending on the olive variety and the maturity of the olive when harvested. The bitterness can be removed from an olive through curing (a fermentation process to convert its natural sugars into lactic acid and leaching out the harsh-tasting oleuropein and phenols). When milling an olive for olive oil, the milling process extracts (separates) the oil from the rest of the olive (e.g., the harsh-tasting water, outer skin, pit, etc.).

Research indicates most mature olive trees can produce approximately 33-44 pounds of olives. Depending on the size of the olive, this means approximately 5,200 – 8,000 olives. Numbers vary depending on factors such as the variety, maturity, and growing conditions of the tree and the timing of harvest. There are more than 15 size grades of olives, from Sub Petite (181 – 220 olives per pound) to Super Mammoth (41-45 olives per pound).

Research indicates a tree can produce approximately 3 – 5 liters of oil.

Typically, a ton of olives can produce approximately 10 – 40 gallons of oil.  This means it takes approximately 50 to 200 pounds of olives to make a gallon of oil.  Factors include the olive variety, the maturity of the olive, the ratio of water to oil within the olive, and the milling process.

It takes approximately 3 – 13 pounds of olives to make a 250 mL size bottle of oil (approximately 8.45 ounces of oil).

An olive tree starts to produce between the ages of five and ten years, and its production begins to decline after it is approximately 100 years old.

On average, 500 years. The olive tree of Vouves in Chania, Greece, is thought to be 2,000 years old (according to a tree ring analysis) and still produces fruit. The Al Badawi tree in a village of Bethlehem is thought to be between 4,000 and 5,000 years old. Two trees in Lebanon known as The Sisters are still producing fruit and thought to be 6000 years old.

Olive trees can grow up to 35 feet. However, most olive growers tend to keep them shorter for various reasons, such as harvesting. For example, some mechanical harvesters drive over the tops of the trees, and therefore have height restrictions for the trees. Pruning and hand picking are easier with shorter trees, as well.

Olives start out green and change from green to yellow to brownish red to black as they ripen. Green is an unripe olive and black is a fully ripen olive. All the olives on a tree do not ripen at the same time, thus olives tend to be a variety of colors during harvest. The darker the olives are during harvest, the milder the flavor of the oil; the greener they are, the stronger the flavor of the oil.

There are numerous types of harvesters. Traditionally, olives were picked by hand. Over time, more growers are using machinery. Some of the types of machinery are:  long-handled vibrating tongs used to shake olives from the branches where they fall onto nets laid on the ground around the tree, tractors drawing shakers behind them to shake the trees so the olives drop, modified grape harvesting machinery, and larger machines that are driven over rows of olive trees (10-13 feet tall) planted closely together and in a hedge-like style (super/high density). These larger machines use finger-like rods that shake and detach the olives into a hopper (attached to the machine).

This depends largely on the planting style, and depends on the things such as variety, climate, terrain, planned harvest method, irrigation management, and soil conditions, etc. Spacing between trees can range from 3 feet by 12 feet to 28 feet by 28 feet.  A super high-density configuration of trees planted 6 feet apart in rows with 12 feet between the rows can result in approximately 600 trees per acre.