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The way we’ve been thinking about olive oil is all wrong

It turns out that we’ve been thinking about extra virgin olive oil all wrong.

Yes, it’s healthy and tasty — great for brushing on a crusty baguette or using for a quick sauté — but as a food, it’s more akin to fresh-squeezed orange juice than to a pantry staple that sits for months on a kitchen shelf.

Olives are a fruit, and extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) comes from crushing the fresh fruit and extracting the oil. The flavor should be fruity and often a bit bitter, with a pungency that imparts a spicy or peppery sensation, said Dan Flynn, the executive director of the UC Davis Olive Center.

To ensure you’re getting the best, freshest flavor, buy EVOO in the year of its harvest and in quantities that you can use in a month or two. Look for containers that minimize exposure to light and store the oil somewhere cool and dark.

Learn more tips for buying and using olive oil to best advantage — and how to buy special olive oil directly from the UC Davis Olive Center beginning this November.

Photo above and on home page of Link: Students harvest olives by hand from young trees in the campus research grove. Credit: Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis

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