Olives – the green gold of Jelsa

Olives are native fruits of the Mediterranean region. Olive trees were brought to the island of Hvar in ancient times. The most common cultivar is Oblica. Autumn comes, the fruit ripens, its green color darkens, and the oil content increases and the people of the island of Hvar prepare for fruit harvesting and processing. Most olives are picked by hand, however, sometimes machinery is used or a combination of both methods.

The harvest lasts from October to December and sometimes extends to January. Table olives are picked earlier on in the year, depending on whether one wishes to preserve them as green, ripe green or black. They should be handpicked, one by one, lest they should be bruised, thus ensuring superior quality.

When the fruit is harvested for oil production, the desired quality of the oil determines when the harvest should start, as well as the harvesting and processing methods.

An early harvest does not provide for much oil in quantity, but rather produces top quality oils. Ideally, olives are pressed immediately after having been harvested. Traditionally, when they could not be pressed on the day of harvesting, they were preserved by being soaked in the sea water.

Aired and washed in cold water to remove the branches and leaves, the olive fruit is made into a paste from which oil may be extracted using a traditional or modern method. The first method is mechanical and involves large millstones and room temperature. The rotation is approximately 15 rpm and the temperature does not exceed 25 °C. The oil so extracted is labeled "cold pressed". Sometimes solid particles need to be eliminated from the oil through filtration.

In modern mills oil is extracted in a single continuous line, in an air-tight hydraulic machine.

Olive oil has always been used as food, medicine and for skin care. Compared to all the other edible fats and oils, olive oil is the easiest one to digest, which is why it is considered ideal. It has favorable effects on "good cholesterol" (HDL) regulation, thanks to a high content of monounsaturated fatty acids (77 %), and helps reduce LDL thanks to having only between 4 and 12 % of polyunsaturated and saturated fatty acids that may affect blood vessels. Olive oil is a nutrient rich in carotene and chlorophyll (that contribute to the oxidation stability of the oil), lecithin (an anti-oxidant, stimulates the metabolism, fats, sugars and proteins) and essential vitamins A, D, K, and E.

People living in areas in which olive oil is preferably used are less subject to blood vessel and heart diseases, and colon, prostate and breast cancer. Olive oil contributes to digestion and has laxative and demulcent properties, thus helping with heartburn and an inflamed oesophagus. It prevents gastritis, gastric and duodenal ulcers, fatty degenerations of the liver and helps flush out the gallbladder. It has a favorable effect on the growth and development of children. It slows down the aging process, fights against senility and replenishes the skin.