What does Virgin Olive Oil mean? The Olive fruit and its juice.
Olive is the fruit of the olive tree. Specifically it is a drupe, like the cherries, plums and peaches.
As the rest of the drupes, it has a skin called pericarp and an intermediate fleshy area, called mesocarp and a single central bone called endocarp.
The olive has two particularities that make it unique among all the drupes. First, its flesh is not sweet but bitter (please, do not attempt to taste an olive picked up directly from the olive tree, you will regret it!); and second, and most important, is that its fleshy part contains a large amount of an oily substance inside.
This is important, because this oily substance can be extracted as if it was orange juice, through mechanical procedures: squeezing, crushing or pressing the olives. On the contrary, to extract oil from seeds, it is necessary to use chemical procedures by using solvents.
The juice obtained from the olive only using mechanical processes is called Virgin Olive Oil.
Like any other juice, Virgin olive oils are of good quality if the milled fruits are not damaged, they are at their just maturing point, they are milled in a short period of time after being harvested, and finally, the production system is the adequate.
Based on the different qualities, and sorted from highest to lowest quality, Virgin Olive Oils are classified as:
- Extra virgin olive oil, the higher quality among all the olive oils
- Virgin olive oil, the second in quality among all the olive oils
- Lampante virgin olive oil, which is not suitable for human consumption.
Extra virgin and virgin olive oils are categories of commercial products and the requirements that must fulfill to be labeled are regulated by the legislation.
On the other hand lampante virgin olive oil, or simply lampante, because that is not suitable for consumption, must be refined in order to be consumable, and therefore, it will leave to be Virgin.
This classification is a bit confusing, because the three are virgin olive oils, and one of them, virgin olive oil has the same name as the generic one. To avoid confusions, we will try to call the general classification in plural, as 'virgin olive oils'; and within it, we will call in singular, 'virgin olive oil' to the second in quality.