Some call olive oil "liquid gold", but my family and I call it “magical”.
It’s amazing the things you learn about food when raised by a very traditional Italian family. I recently was chatting with my mom and sister and we talked about the various uses of olive oil.
Olive trees go far back before biblical times, with their legendary reputation. Italians consider the olive tree as almost holy, evoking feelings of vitality and health.
Olive oil is very popular and has been used for centuries. When I lived in Italy from 1999-2005, I decided to partake in the entire “oil harvesting process.” Clearly, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into but my childhood friend and I wanted to share the full experience. It was brilliant, fun, and exhausting all at the same time!
They first lay a net under the tree, which fits nicely around the base of the tree – it’s like putting on a bib before eating lobster. We were then given long wooden sticks with rakes attached and baskets. You take the stick with the rake and slide the olives gently down the branch allowing them to drop onto the net – talk about exercise!!! They use this method so that the branch and olives don’t suffer. That’s right, olive trees have feelings and get hurt easily so we were told that we needed to be gentle as we raked the branches – the gentler we were on the trees, the better the olive oil. The entire time, I found myslef completely focused on the tree and the olives so that it would make amazing olive oil! I lovingly talked to the tree and was determined not to hurt the branches and olives - after all, those who owned the olive trees had a deep love and attachment for them and I did not want to disappoint anyone – including the trees! Once we finished raking the trees, we folded the nets and emptied the olives into the baskets where they are then taken to the mill for the second part of the process. It was quite an experience - one I will never forget! We were all rewarded with an incredible lunch with many delicious homemade meals and bread and, of course, homemade wine!
Most of us are very well aware of the healthy benefits of olive oil. Olive oil is high in vitamins, minerals, and naturally fatty acids. Today, it is used in many anti-aging skin care products.
My family had many uses for olive oil but below are some of my favorites that they shared with me:
Take baths with olive oil. This will make your skin smooth and very soft.
Use olive oil as a makeup remover. Not only are you removing makeup, but you are also nourishing and moisturizing your skin. Apply a little bit of olive oil on a warm damp wash cloth and gently wipe away the makeup from your face. Rinse face with warm water and then cold water. Cold water will help stimulate the blood circulation and close pores.
Wrinkles, Wrinkles go away!! Many years ago they had no facial creams – their anti-aging cream was olive oil! It’s not always about the genes!
Olive oil for Manicures. Massage a drop of olive oil on cuticles to soften them. If after removing nail polish you have stains on your nails, soak your nails in a bowl mixed with olive oil and lemon – this will also strengthen your nails.
Olive oil for shaving. If you have sensitive skin, dip the raizor in olive oil and shave.
Use for Strains, muscle pain and insect bites. Heat the olive oil and massage those areas.
For Bad Breath: Mix a teaspoon of olive oil and a teaspoon of lemon, and take on an empty stomach.
Untangle hair. If you have dry, tangled hair, warm the olive oil, and add to your entire head of hair, while messaging the scalp. It will not only untangle your hair, but your hair will be silk and shiny and your scalp moisturized.
Olive oil for the Evil Eye – better known as “Malocchio”. Still very much a tradition in Italy, as well as my family. Fortunately, my mom was trained to do this many years ago in her mountain village hometown outside of Naples, Italy….even my friends come to see her! The malocchio (mal=bad, occhio=eye) is believed to be caused by the bad thoughts of other people – especially envy. It’s said that you never know who is giving you the malocchio, but usually it’s someone who is fairly close to you. My mom uses a dish of water into which she drops olive oil from her finger. There is a prayer ritual that goes along with this. When you have many spots of oil clumped together or the oil completely dissapears once it hits the water, then you have a problem with malocchio. Water and oil don’t mix so you would be amazed when this happens!!
Loosen up screws. My uncle builds homes and when he needs to loosen up a screw, he adds olive oil.
Remove splinters. just add olive oil on the splinter and squeeze.
And one of my favorites, olive oil for light! Years ago, in the mountains, outside of Naples, they did not have electricity. My mom told me that at night, they would take wax, a tassel, and add olive oil – the candle would burn all night.
Olive oil….it’s not just for cooking!