It first appeared thousands of years ago in the Middle East, much later the Phoenicians and the Greeks started to produce it in larger scales. The Romans developed it and with the empire it spread through all the Mediterranean territories. The biggest producer of Olive oil in the world is, by far, Spain. Amounts are so huge that no other country is comparable. They produce all kinds of qualities, from the very worst kind to the most exquisite! Since the roman Empire, Hispania (Iberia ) became the main supplier of the Italic peninsula because there were never Olive trees enough for the huge amount of production that the Romans needed. Even now a days, the main suppliers of Italy for olives are Spain and Morocco because there are no Olive trees enough in Italy for the amount oil that they export. This leads to one issue… Italian olive oil is, like the Spanish, offering two absolutely different kinds of quality. For sure you already bought some extremely intense and strong and some fruity and soft. When I see written in some label “prawdziwa włoska oliwa z oliwek” it makes me laugh because, first, this is one of the worst labels of olive oil in the market, second, Italian is not necessarily quality (although they are known for that ) and last because that olive oil is not even made with Italian olives. So, if you want good soft olive oil from Italy, it has to have the DOP designation. I have seen it in Poland several times, it’s not as easy to find but you can find Italian olive oil with that. That will be very good oil. And for Italian olive oil that is really important.

An interesting aspect about olives is the fact that most of the labels in the polish market present green cheap olives with no bone. Only medium low quality olives have no bone, many times have paprika in the center.. this is good but it’s only because these olives have a very poor taste and helps people to like it. It might be good with spices sometimes, or even with almond, but the best olives of all are the ones with bone. A good olive doesn’t need to be stuffed with something else to distract you from the real taste. Also interesting to say that the darker is the olive the softer it is and the tastier. Black natural olives are in fact brown.. these are full of taste. The absolute black are not naturally black, they are oxidized! A fantastic process that turns olives into extremely soft. So in fact, green olives are simply common and cheaper. I don’t mean they are bad, simply common and not full of flavor. The green gordal, are enormous and have better taste in my opinion. Olives will be even better if they are sold in Olive oil and not in water.

I have been realizing that polish people use different kind of oils when they cook. This is very nice. They use for example oil made of grapes. Very interesting… It’s a very soft oil, not very popular in the countries that produce it, like Spain. Olive oil is also becoming very popular, unfortunately, people don’t use all its potential, they don’t know exactly what to do with it. Since it’s more expensive, Polish people use just a little and basically in salads. What a pity, you can use it for many things! Salads, yes, but also, soups, cooking ( boiling, frying.. ) even making sweets like cakes, biscuits or ice cream.. oh, yes! This leads to something else… Polish people were taught by marketing that they should buy extra virgin olive oil, that this is the best! Another joke… So I see ladies in shops looking for olive oil “extra virgine” without knowing what to buy… as long as it’s “extra virgine”! Well, 95% of the olive oil in the market is extra virgin, so why this obsession? The truth is, there are so many differences in all extra virgin olive oils but people, here, don’t know that, so… anything goes! People probably choose olive oil according to the nicest bottle, price and country that they believe it’s best… that is like buying blinded! They might even buy the worst in the shelf using that kind of criteria. To be extra virgin, an olive has to have less than 0,8% level of acidity. Unfortunately, almost no labels in Poland show this information on the etiquette. The bottles have almost no information like, where are the olives from, what kind of olives was it made of, and also, no information about acidity. The etiquettes tend to have texts like “superior quality”, “modern processes”, marketing only. People have to buy and try different so they understand which one, they like the most. The only labels in the market that actually show the information about acidity are all Portuguese. Once I saw in Piotr I Pawel a not very known Portuguese label “ Maçarico “, sometimes in Biedronka they have RESERVA 0,5% from “Gallo” for an amazing price because Jerónimo Martins buys huge amounts to the producer. It’s for sure one of the best labels in Poland for the lowest price. That is funny because in general people have a bad idea about Biedronka so, I believe, some without this type of problems will simply buy an extraordinary olive oil. Unfortunately they only have it once in a while. Another great Olive oil you can buy in Poland is the Greek Melissa. Good olive oil for a very reasonable price, unfortunately, also, without much information on the etiquette. Finally I would say that, by far, one of the best olive oils in Poland, you can find, for example, in Kuchnie Swiata. The name is “ Oliveira da Serra” and there you will find so many different varieties of this label. And this is great because the other labels usually only have one, two or three varieties. And you could ask, for what does it have varieties? That has a simple answer: That is because they are done with different olives, they have different level of acidities and they have different purposes. Of course you can use any olive oil for anything you make in the kitchen, still, you should choose one according to what you want to cook. Some are soft and so, better for salad, some are better for fish and seafood, so better for soup and vegetables, so better for meet, so better for frying. This is very important, never, but never, use extra virgin olive oil for frying. This is extremely unhealthy and the consequences might be bad for you in the future. Extra virgin olive oil boils too fast, for frying you need a stronger olive oil, minimum with 1% level of acidity. What would you fry? For example, if you want extraordinary rice, tasty and not glued you should fry it with onion and garlic before you boil it with not so much water.

One recommendation: never buy olive oil in plastic bottles. The quality might be lower and, most important, plastic passes bad taste to the oil after some time.

Finally I would like to tell you about Olive oil that has BIO designation. In all western countries organic/biological food costs about the same as common food. In Poland it’s new and somehow a symbol of sophistication, so the prices are ridiculous, high and not honest. You can find in BIO bazaar in Warsaw, eggs for 1zl each. This is not honest. BIO can cost the same as all the other food. Don’t believe when they explain you why it is more expensive. This is happening to Bio olive oil, also. Some Bottles cost almost 100zl. This is an insult to intelligence and again it’s not very honest. Don’t buy that because for sure you will not be buying better. Those are good, for sure, but they cost two or three times more than what they could cost. Then, there are marketing operations that make you believe that there are bio olive oils, specially, for children. One label has the picture of a baby and suggests this is the one! All olive oils that are BIO are good for children, all, without exceptions, happens that, because of that, this particular bottle costs almost double than what it could cost. Pure Marketing! The Label “Oliveira da Serra” has a bottle of 500ml Bio Olive oil NOT FILTRED (which is superior) and can be found for about 30zl. In bio bazaar in Warsaw, it might cost 25zl ! The one with the little baby costs the same but has half the oil, only 250ml. An insult! I have been told by some people that work in the food business that, in Poland, people will not believe it’s good if it’s cheap. This is very sad and people are losing because of this.
The most important is that people already noticed the existence of this wonderful oil and they are using it. Olive oil gives lots of possibilities and it is for sure a wonderful choice in any kitchen. Since Poland doesn’t produce it imports olive oil from many different countries and this is very interesting, gives even more possibilities. The countries that produce it are very proud of it but also a bit arrogant, so they almost don’t import. But if you go to the best shops in the world like Fortnum and Mason in London you will find olive oil from Spain, Greece, Italy and Portugal. Keep using it!

Goncalo Franco