The Mediterrean diet is commonly known and appreciated for its benefits to the health, as well as for its tasty dishes.  Can you guess which ingredient is considered to be irreplaceable?

Yes, it’s the olive oil!

More than the 50 percent of the European olive supply comes from Spain, which is also the number 1 producer of olive oil in the whole planet. Its quality is testified by the presence of more than 30 D.O. (Denominacion de Origen) areas which can be mostly found in two regions: Andalusia and Catalogna. The former is the largest area dedicated to the cultivation of olives in the world, home of the most important variety, the Picual. Catalogna instead produces a different, but not less tasty, oil.
How to describe it?

Its benefits are more than you could ever imagine. Even if you can eat as much as you like, its minimal fat content makes it perfect for heart health and weight control: by reducing blood pressure it prevents thrombosis, for instance. Olive oil is rich in antioxidants, especially vitamin E, which minimizes cancer risk. It has also been demonstrated that a diet rich in olive oil is the most effective approach for diabetics. Finally, it appears to have a protective effect regarding depression risk.

It can be used in many different ways. Mostly used to savor the meat or the vegetables, it can even replace butter in desserts.

Like different grape varieties express certain flavours in wine, there is a great variety of flavours of olive oil according to the types of olives used, which are thought to be more than 250! The most important varieties are: the Picual, Hojiblanca, Lechin, Verdial, Picudo, Cornicabra, Empeltre and Arbequina.
The Picual oil is the most produced in the world. Its fresh and fruity flavour makes it perfect for salads and soups.
Oil from the Hojiblanca olive is excellent for baking and frying. Its taste is characterized by an initial sweetness followed by a bitter aftertaste.
The Cornicabra is a very stable oil. It has a sweet, fruity flavour with a slight bitterness. Olives must be carefully hand picked for its production, so it is generally reserved for fine oils.
The Empeltre olive produces a smooth, fruity, sweet flavour with no bitterness at all. Its yellow colour and its flavour recall the sweetness of an apple. It is perfect and mostly used for mayonnaise.
Catalonia offers the Arbequina as its main variety. Very popular in Spain because of a pleasant nutty flavour. Its colour, which is greener, is one of the principle characteristics.

The olive oil is that kind of thing that once you taste it, you want to take home!

Giovanni Nuccio