The Greeks, the Romans the Mesopotamians all valued olive oil for a wide variety of reasons. Olive oil is the product of pressing the fruits of the olive tree under high pressure to extract the oils contained within.
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The oil itself has a huge variety of applications outside of the culinary sphere but let's start with that. Olive oil contains many useful and healthy amino acids, vitamins and minerals.Olive oil contains oleic acid, linoleic acid, palmitic acid and more. Mostly produced in the Mediterranean, olives form one of the staple food products of the region along with wheat, grapes and tomatoes.
Currently, the world's biggest producer of olive oil is Spain, followed closely by Italy and Greece.
Did you know? Immature green olives eventually turn black on the tree when fully ripened.
Depending on the cultivar and the climate, olive oil can have a flavour range varying from peppery to smooth and creamy. Virgin olive oil is made by cold pressing ripe olive fruits. Once the olives have been pressed once or twice, the remaining oil can be extracted using pressure, water and heat however this can not be referred to as being "virgin" olive oil. Virgin olive oil is primarily used as a salad dressing whereas non virgin olive oil is more suited to cooking, as it has a higher smoking point than virgin.
Aside from culinary uses, olive oil is pretty much the "swiss army knife" of oils. For thousands of years, olive oil has been used to make a wide range of products such as soap, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and even fuel.
Some alternative uses for olive oil (use extra virgin olive oil for best results) :
1) As an "anti-acne" paste - Mix 4 tablespoons of salt with 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Apply this mixture to the face, gently rubbing it in and allowing it to stand for 3-4 minutes. This produces an exfoliant and moisturiser in one.
Make a paste by mixing 4 tablespoons salt with 3 tablespoons olive oil. Pour the mixture onto your hands and fingers and work it around your face. Leave it on for a minute or two, then rinse it off with warm, soapy water. Apply daily for one week, then cut back to two or three times weekly. You should see a noticeable improvement in your condition. (The principle is that the salt cleanses the pores by physical abrasion / exfoliation, while the olive oil restores the skin’s natural moisture.)
2) Use as shaving foam/cream. A natural and safe lubricant for your face/ legs etc. Can also be used a post shave lubricant.
3) Make it into a lip balm by melting into some natural beeswax at a ratio of 1:1 along with some essential oils of your choosing (for fragrance).
4) Add a few drops to your bathwater for super soft, smooth skin. Equally good applied in small amounts, directly to the skin, it is known to help alleviate symptoms of Eczeme and diaper rash.
5) Olive oil has good, natural, anti bacterial properties, especially when combined with a few other ingredients. It can be made into an anti sceptic cream by mixing it with several ingredients including : essential lavender oil, tea tree oil, coconut oil and beeswax. Mix the coconut oil and olive oil and beeswax at a ratio of 1:1:1 (use 100 grams of each) over a very low heat or preferably a bain marie. Once fully liquefied, add 5 drops of tea tree oil, 5 drops of lavender oil and 5 drops of tea tree oil and 1 tablespoon of Manuka honey. Mix thoroughly and allow to cool in the fridge. This cream can be applied topically to cuts, burns and grazes.
6) One of the more unusual treatments for head lice - apply olive oil directly to the hair, to the point of saturation. Allow to sit for 45 minutes. Then shampoo the hair twice. Not only will this help with a head lice problem, it will also leave the hair feeling silky smooth. Use a preventative afterwards.
7) Household use - add a few drops to a squeaky door hinge for super silent function.
8) Leather conditioner - rub a little amount to cleaned leather surfaces to prevent cracking and dirt ingress. Allow to sit on the lather for 15 minutes and then wipe away the excess. This also works on older leather.
9) Home made pet care product - add a teaspoon to cat food to prevent hairballs and to grow a shiny coat.
10) Use it for light and heat - Olive oil lamps have been used for thousands of years! The flame can be a little smoky but is very slow burning. To make, simply place a wick into olive oil in a ceramic, glass or metal container. Simple!
The Bushgear Team
Photo:stu_spivack, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons