I’ve collaborated with Francesco and Francesca Piatelli from Agricola Maraviglia in Tuscany to create a series of videos about olive oil including nine recipes which we’ll be posting over the next year. Find the first recipe here for BBQ pumpkin with lacto-chilli sauce. They’ve just pressed this year’s olive oil. If you’ve not tried freshly pressed oil before, it’s a must try. Fresh harvest oil is an entirely different beast, grassy, alive and rich in polyphenols which means flavour. Maraviglia is part of the Slow Food Presidium for its award winning Olive Oil, which comes from restored ancient Tuscan groves full of heirloom olive varieties. They only make a micro-production and this year harvested 600 kilos of which I’m told will sell out by Christmas.
Here are my notes that I prepared for the video we recorded together about why olive oil is such a good choice of oil.
How our food is farmed matters. I try to cook with local seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables from small-farms whenever possible. Why should store cupboard ingredients be any different?
Imported goods can be just as easy to trace as local food when we purchase food directly from the supplier or at least through a transparent food chain.
Most people overlook the health implications and environmental impact of cooking oil. Yet it can be one of the most or least healthy and sustainable products on our shelves.
Each oil crop has its problems from land use and deforestation to the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilisers and pollution caused by them. Two of the top three drivers of global deforestation are vegetable oil crops (soy, palm). Vegetable oil is made up of either soy, palm, sunflower or canola oil or a mixture of all of them – together they emit around 1.2 billion tons of CO2 every year.
I researched different oils for my cookbook, looking for a sustainable oil to cook with that is good for both personal and planetary health. Every oil has an impact but some have less and can even benefit the environment.
I believe extra virgin olive oil is one of the best choices for both the body and the planet. It can elevate the most basic dish and supplements our diets with monounsaturated fat and omega-9 fatty acids, which help reduce cholesterol when used instead of saturated and trans fats – proven by various studies of the Mediterranean diet. Olive oil is also high in omega oils and is full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory polyphenols which may provide extra health benefits too.
All my work over the last decade in food sustainability suggests that a whole-food, plant-rich diet is the best for both personal and planetary health. Like the Mediterranean-diet which is plant-rich and full of whole foods including whole grains, legumes, nuts and of course olive oil.
Olive trees are a permanent crop. Unlike annual crops like soya and sunflower which need to be replanted each year. The average lifespan of an olive tree is 500 years! And the oldest known olive tree is 1500 years old. Throughout their lifespan olive trees sequester carbon and lock it into the tree’s branches, trunk and their roots and the soil.
I choose extra virgin olive oil because of the potential health benefits for both personal and planetary health because that’s what matters to me first and foremost, however, like most produce that has been grown with care, it tastes incredible too.
Order Francesco and Francesca Piatelli oil from Agricola Maraviglia. They have free shipping on orders over 120 Euros.