The Portuguese Olive Oil
Portuguese olive oil is an indispensable ingredient of our gastronomy contributing for its incomparable taste It is also good for your health
Portuguese famed gastronomy wouldn´t be the same without one of its main ingredients – olive oil. In fact, olive oil is a must in almost every Portuguese dish, either sweet or savory. Olive oil may be used to season, as an ingredient, hot to boil ingredients or cold to preserve olives, cheeses, vegetables or sausages.
However, to have such a delicious gastronomy as the Portuguese we can’t use just any olive oil: we need Portuguese olive oil, which quality has been conquering the international markets thanks to its magnificent quality, assuming its origin and becoming one of our best trademarks. In fact, Portuguese olive oil is even being bought for several distributors to improve the quality of foreign olive oils and to be sold as Italian (source: Publico Newspaper – information in portuguese).
Olive oil benefits
Besides improving every dish’s flavor, olive oil is highly appreciated for its nutritional value. In fact, olive oil is considered the healthier of the cooking greases, presenting the following benefits:
- Circulatory system: olive oil prevents arteriosclerosis by contributing to dissolve the grease existing in blood and thus diminishing the risk of a heart attack;
- Digestive system: improves the functioning of the stomach and the pancreas as well as the intestinal tract, helping the digestion;
- Skin: it helps to protect and tone the skin;
- Endocrine system: olive oil helps to improve metabolism;
- Bones: it stimulates bones growing and also improves the calcium absorption;
- As it is a magnificent antioxidant, olive oil helps to prevent cancer.
Olive plantation in Portugal goes way back to Roman times that passed on their knowledge to the Visigoths. On the other hand, the importance of the Arabs on the olive growing technics development is evident on the Portuguese word for olive oil, namely azeite that comes from the Arab az-zait, which means olive juice.
By the 13th century, olive oil already played an important role on the Portuguese economy, namely on our foreign trade. By then, the convents were the main responsible for olive plantation giving olive oil the nickname of sacred oil. Olive groves became more and more popular as the olive tree is a strong tree, resistant to extreme dry weather and easily adaptable to rocky ground.
During the Discovery Age olive oil and wine were our main exports and the demand increased considerably due to the fact that olive oil began to be used for illumination purposes. The quality of the Portuguese olive oil during the 19th century was awarded at the 1889 Paris World Exhibition. Lately there has been a new dynamics on the establishment of new plantations as well as techniques that have been contributing for the excellence of the Portuguese olive oil.
Portuguese olive oil producing regions
In Portugal there are six areas of Protected Designation of Origin on what concerns olive oil that offer differentiated olive oils:
- Moura Protected Designation of Origin
Olive oil coming from this region, set on the left side of the Guadiana River, has a fruity, bitter and spicy character and presents a yellow greenish color.
- Alentejo Interior Protected Designation of Origin
On the other side of the Guadiana River are produced the olive oils from the Alentejo Interior region that offer a fruity taste, recalling apple and/or fig, which gives them a sweet personality. It has a golden color.
- Norte Alentejo Protected Designation of Origin
These olive oils come from the areas of Évora, Estremoz, Estremoz, Borba e Reguengos de Monsaraz até Elvas, Campo Maior and Portalegre. They have a strong apple taste, are slightly thick and present a golden color.
- Ribatejo Protected Designation of Origin
Coming from the fertile lands by the Tagus River, these olive oils are famed for being sweet.
- Beira Interior Protected Designation of Origin
The olive oils from this region are complex in terms of taste and aromas. This region presents a sub-region that goes to the Douro River edge.
- Trás-os-Montes Protected Designation of Origin
From Braganza district come complex olive oils that have a strong nuts aroma. They are well-balanced olive oils.
Olive oil types
According with The International Olive Council, there are several olive oil types, but the most important are:
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
The extra virgin olive oils are obtained exclusively by physical processes, either pressing or centrifugation, without chemical products. They present an acidity value inferior to 0.8%.
- Virgin Olive Oil
The virgin olive oils are obtained exclusively by physical processes, either pressing or centrifugation, without chemical products. They present an acidity value inferior to 2%.
- Olive Oil
The oils are obtained by blending refined oils and and extra virgin oil.
- Refined Olive Oil
These olive oils are processed with chemic products in order to eliminate free acidity or subject to distillation to alter colour or bad aromas, for instance.