Algeria’s Liquid Gold
Supporting a variety of wildlife, Algeria’s indigenous vegetation includes grasses, scrub, oaks, cedars, junipers, pine trees, a variety of conifers and olive trees. Olive trees have long been prized for their fruit, also called olives, which are prepared in a number of tasty ways and served on their own, or as an ingredient of Algerian cuisine. Olive trees are indigenous to the Mediterranean, as well as through Africa and Asia. With their oblong, silvery green leaves and gnarled and twisted trunks, olive trees rarely grow taller than 15 meters. Given the right conditions – full sun, well-drained sandy soil, some water and a long, hot growing season – olive trees need little attention and have an average lifespan of 500 years.
Sometimes referred to as ‘liquid gold’, the oil produced from olives is very versatile, being used in cooking and as a beauty and personal grooming product, among other uses. The practice of extracting oil from olives goes back millennia, with olive presses being found in many Roman ruins and other ancient archeological sites. There are a number of ways to extract olive oil, some of which are better than others. While using heat increases the yield from olives, it may compromise the quality and health-giving benefits, so cold-pressed oil is generally of a higher quality.
A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil has a host of health benefits and consuming four tablespoons of olive oil every day can significantly lower one’s risk of suffering a stroke, having a heart attack or developing heart disease. The oil makes arteries more elastic, preventing hardening of the arteries, while reducing bad (LDL) cholesterol levels. Ongoing research is exploring what effect the antioxidants and phytonutrients in olive oil may have on digestion, bone health and cancer prevention. There is even research being conducted on the effect olive oil may have on memory and cognitive function. As a grooming product, olive oil is the perfect moisturizer for skin and hair and olive-oil based beauty tips have been passed down through generations.
Certainly, there are many good reasons to include olive oil in your daily diet and wellness routine, so while exploring the North African country of Algeria, be sure to take note of the humble olive tree and remember the treasure it bears.