Speaking the same language is important! We decided to include a small dictionary about olive oil to help our customers better understand our work in the world of olive growing, and to debunk some false myths.


Acidity (in olive oil): this is the percentage of acidity expressed in grams, determined by the content of the oleic acid present in one hundred grams of olive oil.

Alkyl esters: compounds (known in the literature as methyl and ethyl esters of fatty acids) which are formed as a result of the fermentation and break-down of olives and which involve the production of methyl and ethyl alcohol and the release of fatty acids from triglycerides. A high percentage of these substances is an indicator of poor quality in extra-virgin oil, which is impoverished from a nutritional point of view as it loses many of its antioxidant properties. In practice, alkyl esters are evidence of incorrect conservation due to faulty storage techniques of the raw material. Two examples of this are leaving olives stacked for days in huge heaps (as often happens in the Spanish industrial systems), or storage after the fermentation process is already underway.

Animal fats: substances that are dangerous for our bodies if taken in large quantities since they are composed of triglycerides formed of saturated fatty acids which are solid at room temperature.These promote the development of cardiovascular diseases and possibly also cancer.

Anthocyanins: these belong to the family of “flavonoids” which are polyphenolic compounds. Thanks to their antioxidant and anti-radical power, these substances can be very useful in medicine. These pigments seem to protect against capillary fragility, and against various aging processes or cellular modifications caused by oxygen, including inflammatory processes and carcinogenic modifications. They also protect plants from damage caused by ultraviolet radiation.

Antioxidants: antioxidants are chemicals (molecules, ions, radicals) or physical agents, which slow down or prevent the oxidation of other substances. Oxidation is a chemical reaction that transfers electrons from a substance to an oxidizer. Oxidation can produce free radicals, which are responsible for initiating a chain reaction that damages cells. Antioxidants terminate these chain reactions by intervening on the intermediate radicals and inhibiting other oxidation reactions by oxidizing themselves

Bacchiatura: an olive-harvesting system that consists in knocking olives from the tree using poles.

Bitter: an organoleptic characteristic of the oil. A characteristic taste of the oil obtained from green or invaded olives. It can be more or less pleasant depending on the intensity.

Blend: an oil produced from a blend of cultivars.

Brucatura: a harvesting system for olives done manually or with the addition of tools such as rakes or combs that do not cause damage to the fruit.

Carotenes: this is a terpene provitamin contained in carrots and in numerous plants to which it gives red or orange color. Two molecules of vitamin A are produced from its metabolism. It is present in extra virgin olive oil in small quantities.

Cellulose: this is one of the most important polysaccharides. Polysaccharides are the most abundant carbohydrates. They have numerous biological functions including as energy reserves and energy transport (example: starch, glycogen) and are also known as structural components of cellulose in plants and cartilage in animals. In addition, carbohydrates and their derivatives play a fundamental role in the immune system, in fertilization and in biological development.

Certification Bodies: these are the authoritative bodies that have the task of guaranteeing that products with the PDO or PGI mark meet the requirements established in the Community regulations.

Chlorophyll: this molecule has a ring structure with a magnesium atom at the center. The atom has the function of maintaining the rigid structure to prevent solar energy from being dispersed in the form of heat before it can be used for photosynthesis. Chlorophyll (of any type) is yellowish-green in color. In olive oil, the less ripe the fruit, the more intense the color of the Chlorophyll. During the conservation of the oil, the chlorophyll breaks down and the color of the oil turns to yellow.

Cholesterol: this is a steroid or lipid more commonly known as “fat”. Cholesterol is an essential ingredient of the cell membrane of all animal cells. Humans produce most of the cholesterol necessary for autonomous biosynthesis. In adults this is between 1 and 2 grams a day. Only a small part (on average 0.1 to 0.3 with a maximum 0.5 grams) is taken with food. It is precisely here that we must be careful and ensure that its value remains within the limits allowed, otherwise our bodies can achieve values ​​that are devastatingly low or high.

Cold extract: this is optional wording that can be on olive oil packaging. This wording is reserved for virgin or extra-virgin olive oil obtained at less than 27° C by a process of percolation or centrifugation of the olive paste.

Cold pressing: this is optional wording that can be used on an olive oil label. This wording is reserved for virgin or extra virgin olive oil obtained at less than 27 °C with the first mechanical pressing of the olive paste, using a traditional extraction system with hydraulic presses.

Consorzio di Tutela (Protective Consortium): this is the representative body of oil producers which carries out activities and initiatives for the enhancement of the product.

Endocarp: this is the innermost portion in fleshy fruits and the part that contains the seeds.

Epicarp: this makes up the external part of the fruit. Depending on the type of fruit, it can be of different consistencies. In many fruits, this is what we consider the peel.

European Olea: this is the scientific name of the olive tree which belongs to the Oleaceae family (see here).

Extra virgin olive oil: this is the best oil in the category of “virgin olive oils”. The free acidity expressed in oleic acid is at most 0.8 g for 100 g.

Fatty acids: these are the ingredients of almost all complex lipids and of vegetable and animal fats. They can be “saturated” (hardly digestible, difficult to eliminate and tend to accumulate on the arterial walls, thus promoting cardiovascular pathologies) and “unsaturated” (these are easily digestible and in some cases have a preventive action against the formation of neoplasia and the development of arterial problems).

Filtration: a process with which substances present in the oil are removed after extraction. The most commonly used filters are the most simple ones, the press or continuous-plate filters (in large companies).

Fly (of the olive tree): this is a carpophagous species (parasite), whose larva mines the fruit of the olive tree. It is considered the worst enemy of the olive tree.

Fruity: the organoleptic, or sensory, characteristic of the oil. It depends on the variety of olives, and the characteristics of the oil obtained from healthy, fresh, fruit, whether green or ripe. This is perceived directly, or as an aftertaste. It is reminiscent of the smell and taste of the healthy, fresh fruit picked at its optimal ripening point. On tasting, it is possible to distinguish a green fruit from a ripe fruit; the first one is more intense, the second one is sweeter and less intense.

Glycolipids: these are molecules formed by oligopolymers of carbohydrates which are bound to lipids. Their most important function is to recognize specific chemicals which come from the outside, thus helping to keep balance inside the cell. For example, on the walls of red blood cells, they are decisive in the distinction of the various blood groups. They also play a role in forming tissues, helping cells to stay attached and providing energy to the cell.

Harvesting (Raccatatura): an olive harvesting system that consists in collecting (picking) olives fallen on the ground or on sheets laid out around the tree. With this system one gets a harvest of naturally fallen olives that have undergone an excessive ripening and probably will be taken to the mill immediately. All of this will affect the quality of extra virgin olive oil, especially the acidity which will be very high.

Herbicides: these are substances used to control weeds. They are synthetic, chemical compounds, which are often “xenobiotics”. This means that they are chemically foreign to the compounds which are naturally present in living beings. Problems related to their use arise because of this. We must remember “atrazine”, which is a herbicide used on corn and sorghum, as well as on sugar cane in tropical agriculture. It has been banned for its marked tendency to be transported by water, thus becoming a pollutant for groundwater that can persist for years. In Italy, however, some compounds such as “Terbutilazina” are not yet banned.

Hermaphrodite: this is the phenomenon in which an individual of a given species can produce, simultaneously or subsequently, both the male and female gametes. In some animal species, particularly invertebrates, the phenomenon is common or even essential for reproduction. In most hermaphrodite plants, male and female elements mature at different times in order to ensure cross-pollination between different individuals.

IPG: protected geographical indication. This is the mark of quality attributed to agricultural or food products for which only one phase of the production process is linked to the geographical area of ​​reference (see here)

Lampante virgin olive oil: other than the category of “virgin olive oils” the free acidity expressed in oleic acid is greater than 3.3 g for 100 g.

Lattina: this is the container used to make 5 liters of olive oil (or even packs of 25 liters). The tinplate is a sheet of steel covered on both sides by a thin layer of tin of varying thicknesses. It is very effective because it does not let anything pass through.

Linolenic acid: this is also classified together with linoleic acid under the name of vitamin F. Their therapeutic properties are numerous, they prevent skin and stomach cancer. They prevent cardio-circulatory disorders. They contrast skin problems (dryness, wrinkling and flaking). Clinical experts have proven their effectiveness against eczema. Gamma-linolenic acid is involved in the regeneration of the phospholipids of the fibroblast membranes. The skin becomes more elastic and flexible.

Lot (on the label): this is a “mandatory” indication that must be present on a container of olive oil. It refers to a set of units of a foodstuff which are produced, manufactured or packaged under virtually identical circumstances.

Mediterranean diet: a nutritional model that represents the ideal healthy diet, capable of promoting prevention in the health field.

Mesocarp: this is part of the fruit which is commonly called the pulp in fleshy fruits.

Molazza: this is a machine used for pressing (or squeezing) olives. It is a container with a truncated, conical shape with an arm in the middle to which two or three cylinders (wheels) of granite are connected. The cylinders crush the olives as they turn.

Morchia: this is the sludge of the oil. It is formed by the aggregation of very small sediments present in the olive oil after extraction. These are parts of the olive that are not separated in the extraction process. In fact, the turbidity of just-extracted oil is due to these sediments which tend to settle on the bottom of the container over time. This is why the olive grower should transfer the oil from one container to another after a certain period of time, to allow the expulsion of this substance and prevent the oil from acquiring an unpleasant smell. There are many companies that perform this purge before packaging by filtering the oil.

Oil mill: this is a company or factory where the olive oil extraction phase takes place.

Oleic acid: this is a monounsaturated carboxylic acid with 18 carbon atoms. In the form of triglyceride it is an important component of animal fats and is the most abundant constituent of most vegetable oils. Oleic acid represents about 75% of the acids in olive oil. The percentage of free oleic acid present in olive oil determines its acidity and consequently, its name. In order for olive oil to be considered extra-virgin, an small amount of free oleic acid is allowed as long as it does not exceed 0.8% of the total weight. Linoleic acid: this is present in all vegetable oils. It is abundant in many of them, including safflower oil and sunflower oil and, to a lesser extent, corn oil, soy oil and others. It is also present in some fats of animal origin. Linoleic acid is one of the essential fatty acids and belongs to the Omega 6 group. It’s role (in some cases ascertained, in others only hypothesized) in the prevention or treatment of various diseases, including heart attack, cancer, diabetes and cystic fibrosis is being studied.

Oleocanthal: this is a recently discovered substance that, together with oleuropein, is responsible for the spicy taste of extra-virgin olive oil. It has the same effects as Ibuprofen, one of the most widely used non-steroid painkillers. In fact, like Ibuprofen, this substance in the olive oil could be anticancerogenic if consumed over time.

Oleuropein: this is a bitter glucoside present both in the fruit and leaves of the olive tree. This substance is recognized to have various properties. It is primarily an antioxidant, but also an antihypertensive, bacteriostatic, dilator of the coronary, spasmolytic and vasodilator. The characteristic spicy, slightly bitter taste of extra virgin olive oil is due to this substance and another one which has recently been discovered and baptized oleocantal.

Olive cultivar: this is the term used as a synonym of “variety”, in this case to distinguish a variety of olive or olive tree depending on whether it refers to the fruit or to the tree. In Italy there are about 300 cultivars.

Olive oil: olive oil obtained from a cut of refined olive oil and virgin olive oils other than lamp oil, whose free acidity expressed as oleic acid cannot exceed 1.5 g per 100 g.

Olive tree (cultivated): this is one of the most important cultivated trees of the Mediterranean basin (see here).

Organic oil: oil is considered organic only if obtained and produced from organically farmed olives (see here).

Oxidation: it is said that an element undergoes oxidation when it undergoes an electron subtraction. In olive oil, it is synonymous with degradation and aging and therefore with a lessening of quality.

Palmitic acid: this is one of the most common saturated fatty acids in animals and plants. The name derives from the fact that it is found in palm oil, but is also contained in butter, cheese, milk and meat. Panel test: this is a sensory analysis performed by a group of people who have particular sensory requirements, who evaluate the organoleptic characteristics of the olive oil. This assessment is fundamental in order to highlight defects and enhance the qualities of olive oil because these characteristics can not be discovered with chemical analysis. These analyses are at the discretion of the olive grower who intends to give additonal useful information about the product to the customers. These tests are generally made every year and for each lot.

Panel test: this is a sensory analysis performed by a group of people who have particular sensory requirements, who evaluate the organoleptic characteristics of the olive oil. This assessment is fundamental in order to highlight defects and enhance the qualities of olive oil because these characteristics can not be discovered with chemical analysis. These analyses are at the discretion of the olive grower who intends to give additonal useful information about the product to the customers. These tests are generally made every year and for each lot.

Peroxides: these are chemical compounds which contain the characteristic group consisting of two oxygen atoms. The number of peroxides indicates the degree of primary oxidation of the oil, hence its tendency to go rancid. According to the current legislation, the limit on the number of peroxides is 20, above which the oil is lampante . A value is good if below 10-12. The peroxides are odorless and tasteless, so they are not perceptible at an organoleptic level. However since they are very unstable, they decompose easily and give rise to the formation of aldehydes and ketones, which are responsible for the rancidity. A high number of peroxides shows that the irreversible oxidation process has already started. At the same time, a low number of peroxides is not necessarily linked to high quality, as the oxidation can be passed to the secondary phase, where the peroxides break down into aldehydes and ketones. It is therefore necessary to complete the analysis of the peroxides with a spectrophotometric examination and the organoleptic test.

Pesticides: these are substances or chemical products capable of controlling, limiting, repelling or destroying living organisms (micro-organisms, animals or plants) which are considered harmful. Debates have taken place (and continue to take place) at the European level concerning the harmful effects of pesticides on the environment and on health.

Phospholipids: these molecules are composed of a lipid region (insoluble in water but soluble in organic solvents) and a residue of orthophosphoric acid (in the phosphate group). They are important because ‘the hydrophobic tails (belonging to the atomic group, which does not tend to bind with the water), arrange themselves in a direction away from the water, while the phosphoric heads which are polar molecules, orient themselves towards the aqueous medium. In this way, a barrier is formed that separates the inside of the cell from the outside.

Polyphenols: these constitute a family of about 5000 organic molecules which are widely present in the plant kingdom. Polyphenols are natural antioxidants present in plants and may be useful in preventing the oxidation of lipoproteins and in “stopping” free radicals. Other positive effects have been verified such as cardiovascular effects, the slowing of diseases related to senescence and the stunting of tumor growth.

Pomace oil: the pomace is the solid residue that remains after the oil has been extracted. It is possible to extract residual oil from this. In fact, the pomace, depending on the type of extraction used in the mill, still contains from 3% to 6% of oil. Since this “raw pomace oil” is not edible, it undergoes a refining treatment and, with the addition of an unspecified percentage of virgin olive oil, it becomes edible and is called “olive-pomace oil”.

Pose: this is another common phrase that refers to a waste product created from a process (see sludge).

Pressing: operation of the mill that consists in crushing the olives on millstones or crushers in order to obtain the olive paste from which the olive oil will be extracted.

Production alternation: this is a typical phenomenon of plants (in this case, olive trees) that produce differently from one year to the next. This means that years of abundant production alternate with years of scarce production.

Production regulations: this is a series of rules and regulations that the breeder must observe in order to receive the European Community label of Dop or Igp (see here).

Proteins: they are among the most complex organic compounds and are the fundamental constituents of all animal and plant cells. Those present in olive oil are: alanine, arginine, glycine and leucine.

Pruning: this is used to maintain the correct relationship between branches and leaves so as to ensure correct lighting on the various parts of the foliage and to promote rejuvenation of the plant. These interventions are used to promote productivity and increase the annual development of the plant. in a balanced way.The type of cut also serves to give the tree a shape in relation to the way the harvest will be carried out.

Rancidity: this consists of a series of reactions of hydrolysis and/or oxidation concerning fatty acids or other lipids present in foods. This rancidity is due to the formation of free radicals (very unstable molecules) and to the absorption of oxygen by fatty acids, especially unsaturated ones, both free and esterified.

Refined olive oil: olive oil obtained from the refining of virgin olive oils. Its free acidity expressed as oleic acid must not exceed 0.5 g per 100 g.

Refining: This is an operation which is carried out in specific establishments. This operation involves the following processes: demucillagination, de-acidification, discoloration, filtration, deodorization and winterization.

Ripening: this is the color change in olives from an intense green to a final color which varies from purple to black according to the cultivar.

Saponificable fraction: this is the lipid part of olive oil and is made up of triglycerides and diglycerides.

Saturated fats: these are not very digestible, are difficult to eliminate and tend to accumulate on the arterial walls,thus favoring the establishment of cardiovascular diseases. These characteristics increase as the length of the chain of fatty acids composing them increases.

Scum: this is a term that generally refers to the waste product of a process; (see Morchia).

Scutch (kneading machine): this is a machine used to carry out the kneading process.

Seed oil: this is oil extracted from seeds. It can be obtained from the extraction of sunflower seeds, peanuts, soybeans, corn, etc..

Spectrophotometer: a device for measuring light intensity. It determines the intensity as a function of the wavelength of light radiation. It is used in spectrophotometric analyses performed on olive oil.

Spectrophotometric analysis: this is used to determine the value of specific absorptions in ultraviolet light. The determination of these values ​​(K232, K270, AK) is carried out with the spectrophotometer in the laboratory and highlights the refining processes or phenomena of oxidation and aging in the oil. An increase in K232, shows a primary oxidation, with peroxide formation, while an increase in K270 shows secondary oxidation, with the formation of aldehydes and ketones. It is from these values, in fact, that olive oil is classified. For example, oil can be classified as extra virgin when it has a value of k270 that is less than 0.20,

Spicy: organoleptic characteristic of the oil. This is a sensation of pungent taste, characteristic of the oils obtained at the beginning of the harvest. This comes mainly from olives which are still green thanks to the presence of two substances: oleuropein and oleocantal.

Squalene: this is a hydrocarbon and a triterpene present in shark liver oil (elasmobranchs) but also in plants such as amaranth seeds, rice bran, wheat germ and olives. It has a positive physiological action in human healing and promotes growth.

Stearic acid: this is a saturated fatty acid.

Sterols: sterols are a class of chemical compounds derived from sterol, a polycyclic compound consisting of four condensed rings (three to six carbon atoms and one to five carbon atoms). Plant sterols are also known for their ability to block the absorption of cholesterol in the human gut thus helping to reduce cholesterolemia. Among other functions, sterols are implicated in the regulation of circadian rhythms and blood coagulation in humans.

Tocopherols: these are essential vitamin nutrients for humans, a powerful fat-soluble antioxidant, present in many vegetables, for example in fruit, hemp oil, olive oil and especially wheat germ oil . Tocopherol is one of the main compounds of vitamin E, and therefore their names are commonly used interchangeably.

Triglycerides: these are formed by a molecule of glycerine joined by three molecules of fatty acids. Therefore, we can find both saturated and unsaturated triglycerides. They play an important role in metabolism as an energy source and contain more than twice the energy (9 kcal / g) of carbohydrates and proteins.

Vegetable fats: in most vegetables there are unsaturated fatty acids which are liquid at room temperature. However, there are vegetables from which we obtain some unhealthy saturated fatty acids such as myristic, lauric and palmitic acids. Among these, in particular are coconut oil, palm oil (extracted from palm-oil seeds) and palm oil (extracted from palm-oil pulp) which play a role in the development of atherosclerotic plaques. They produce hypercholesterolemia and promote obesity.

Vegetation water: this is the liquid residue from the processing of olives. It is dark in color and with a characteristic smell. Vegetation water, due to its composition, is a source of pollution. Virgin olive oils: oils obtained from the fruit of the olive tree only by mechanical processes or other physical processes, under conditions, which do not cause any alteration of the oil. The olives have not undergone any treatment other than washing, decanting, centrifugation and filtration. Oils obtained with solvents or by re-esterification processes are excluded as are oils mixed with other kinds of oil.

Virgin olive oil: this belongs to the category of “virgin olive oils” whose free acidity expressed in oleic acid is at most 2 g per 100 g.

Virgin olive oils: oils obtained from the fruit of the olive tree only by mechanical processes or other physical processes, under conditions, which do not cause any alteration of the oil. The olives have not undergone any treatment other than washing, decanting, centrifugation and filtration. Oils obtained with solvents or by re-esterification processes are excluded as are oils mixed with other kinds of oil.