It looks like a banality, but in the land of olive oil where there is the highest biodiversity in the world, people know little or nothing about what is hidden behind the wording "extra virgin olive oil".
Ever since I was a child, I remember the abuse of this fundamental ingredient in our culinary tradition, but since then little or nothing has changed and if it has really changed it has been changed for the worse.
I remember the magic of the harvest, where everyone rushed to refuel from the trusted farmer: 20, 30, 50 liters, but even more. It had to last all year long and even more for the following year. It was, in fact, a habit of everyone to dress with the oil of the year and cook with the old one. Large quantities were marketed and the local peasants emptied their barrels very quickly, repaying the efforts of the whole year.
In recent decades little has changed, as I said, with regard to the culture of producers who insist on the search for high yield at the expense of an intrinsic quality in our fruits. So here at the oil mill, you hear farmers always talking about yield, almost never of mixing times, temperatures, how the olives are stored, etc. Filtering remains a taboo and then the "omelet" is made (as we are used saying here), with our beautiful fruits producing a good oil, but not excellent, something to which more and more big producers are getting closer.
If little has changed on this front, I would say a lot is changed regarding consumer habits. Eating has become an increasingly inattentive act and products of dubious origin and quality are found on the table. Without necessarily expanding the horizon to other food chains, here in the large-scale retail trade, offers and super offers have as the favorite subject olive oil. We pass from IGT Toscani for € 2.99 to 100% Italian for less than € 4.00. Then there are all the beautiful labels of Tuscan bottlers that are now forced to say on the label (always with small well-camouflaged characters) that in reality, the one that is inside the bottle is nothing but a mixture of fats from different European and extra European groves. The apotheosis, however, is in seeing how many producers ride the ignorance of consumers trying to pass off inferior products as better. It is obvious the example of the various "raw", "unfiltered", where the instruction "... shake well before use" was also found.
It is obvious that a small producer, today, feel lost in all this chaos. On the one hand the unfair competition of hobby growers who in years like this flood local markets with oil under the production costs, on the other the cultural dumping of corporations that want less and less aware and careful customers.
If all this represents an apparently impassable swamp, there is always the flip side. The marshy stench is increasingly evident even to a not very attentive public and the consequences of a superficial feeding have alarmed many who have got together to guarantee quality supplies directly from small producers (G.A.S. Solidarity Purchase Groups).
Here, therefore, those farsighted and tenacious producers are finally finding satisfaction in producing oils of the highest nutritional value called today nutraceuticals. Ever more ready and attentive markets and producers with the desire to get involved can lay the foundations for a renaissance of extra virgin olive oil.