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Extra virgin pitted olive oil. How to judge them?

Are they worth producing? What is the state-of-the-art technology to obtain them? We listened to the opinion of Natale Frega, who was one of the first to work them. Now everything is easier. Several studies are now dealing with this product which is calling the attention of consumers more and more

Extra virgin olive oil from pitted oil was produced in the age of the Roman empire. Several centuries later, when Giovanni Presta, great precursor of oil scholars from the region of Lecce, wrote “Degli ulivi e delle ulive, e della maniera di cavar l’olio”, its profile was traced in detail. Nowadays the importance of the product is such that several research institution all over Italy and beyond its borders are studying it, with largely positive results. The strength is now represented by the modern technologies to obtain it.

Results on the quality are clear as well. The extraction of the oil from the pitted dough reduces the triglycerides degradation and increases the content of minor compounds. Is this just a new marketing trend or a product which actually deserves more attention? We interviewed prof. Natale Frega, from Ancona Polytechnic University.
A few years after starting talking about pitted oils, what is the scientific evidence on them?
It is still a work in progress. The olive oil itself has been studied for fifty years and nothing is certain, everything is evolving. From a high quality cultivar you can get an excellent oil or not. In general, we are headed in the right direction, and the pitted oil is of great interest, both scientifically and industrially.

What is the chemical-physical difference that adds up to the sensorial profile variation?
We are sure that there are sensorial differences. No differences have been found in the macro-compounds, but for sure there are in the micro-compounds. For instance, we will never find compounds from almonds inside a pitted oil. Its advantage, though, is not just organoleptic, but also economic, as shown by farms that already produce it. We also can say that, just like we eat an apricot throwing the pit away, so we should do with olives. The pit contains enzymes that start a series of metabolic processes that do not favor the preservation of oil in time. Is it sufficient to make this popular, without clear evidence about the specific compounds of pitted oil?
It is not a trend, but a reality. It is an innovative and therefore adverse to tradition. There is evidence that pitted oils are better preserved, thanks to a lower enzymes content. As regards this point, this is certainly a better product. Still, this will be a niche product as long as the industry does not produce machines needed for this product on a larger scale. If Alfa Laval e Pieralisi will produce these machines as they are doing, the development of the market for pitted olive oil will certainly increase and not be confined to small productive realities.

Did technology solve the issues of machines performance?
The problem is, the pitter was projected just as something that eliminates the press. Now the pitted product is brought to a decanted, not studied for pitted olives, but for whole ones. There is a sort of adaptation of technology, that needs to develop even more advanced machines. The performance should improve if the system of oil extraction were balanced with the decanter. The hard part of the pit, the lignin, has a higher exposed surface and gets soaked in oil. Without the pit, the production should improved. The decanter can actually record a loss of oil, but the problem is that the technology is not studied and thought for pitted olives.

by L. C.
03 may 2010, Technical Area > Olive & Oil