Is Olea ferruginea an alternative to the Olea europaea?

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The oils obtained from olives of the species Olea ferruginea showed a chemical composition similar to that typical of the oils obtained from Olea europaea, except for negligible amounts of erucic acid and brassicasterol and a small presence of linoleic acid, slightly more than 1%.

The demand for virgin olive oil is in constant and continuous growth in the world, even from countries not traditionally producers or consumers, who are increasingly discovering and appreciating the sensory characteristics and nutritional properties of this product.

Among these, we should not forget that Pakistan, with its 180 million or so inhabitants (the sixth most populous state in the world) and a population growth rate that continues to increase, recorded an annual per capita consumption of edible oils of around 13 kg, with an annual expenditure of over $ 550 million for their import (GOP, 2004). In light of these data, and in order to stimulate the rural economy and agriculture, on a specific request for cooperation, it was interesting to investigate whether native species – alternative to the Olea europaea – can be effectively used for the production of virgin olive oils.

The interest is focused on a very widespread species in northern Pakistan: Olea ferruginea Royle, locally known as Kahu that grows wild in arid areas of the country, where other plants struggle to survive. This plant produces drupes looking very similar to our olives, that are usually consumed raw by the local population (Ahmad et al., 2006).

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