Italy and Pakistan together. Insights on a local and wild promising cultivar
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).
The idea was born from a project developed at the Department of Agricultural and Food Sciences, Alma Mater Studiorum, University of Bologna, U.O.S. Cesena (Italy), under the direction of Prof. Tullia Gallina Toschi and in collaboration with the Institute of Biochemistry and Biotechnology and the Department of Botany of Pir Mehr Ali Shah Arid Agriculture University, Rawalpindi (Pakistan). The research was aimed to compare the quality parameters of oils obtained by simple mechanical extraction of drupes of the species Olea ferruginea Royle, from three different locations of Pakistan, with those related to an oil produced by Olea europaea trees, grown on site. All samples were produced by a pilot plant laboratory, present at the University in Pakistan.
The results of the trial were presented in an article published in 2013 in a Special issue that concerned the olive oils (Olive Oil - Quality, Composition and Health Benefits) of the journal “Food Research International” (Anwar et al., 2013). In particular, the oils obtained from olives of the species Olea ferruginea, despite they were classified as "lampante" because of the poor quality of the raw material (olives picked at a very advanced state of maturation and not stored correctly before processing), showed a similar chemical composition to that typical of the oil obtained from Olea europaea, except for negligible amounts of erucic acid and brassicasterol and the presence of linoleic acid slightly more than 1%. The oils obtained from Olea ferruginea were characterized by lower concentrations of phenolic compounds and tocopherols, and by a lower antioxidant activity than the oil obtained from Olea europaea, although richer in β-carotene and lutein.
Further research should be conducted to thoroughly evaluate the differences evidenced by this first collaboration: it will be necessary to build a broad and robust experimental design, selecting and analyzing a larger number of samples, obtained processing good quality olives of Olea ferruginea. It is necessary to properly store such olives before their collection, so as to avoid the appearance of sensory defects in the oil and hydrolytic and oxidative changes which have determined, in the first study, a reduction in quality. It would also be very useful to have the ability to install a small pilot plant on site, to ensure the success of the transformation process, spread the causes and effects on the basis of the peculiar quality of extra virgin olive oil and also evaluate the quantitative parameters, such as the yield of the olive oil. If this cooperation will continue and the studies will confirm the opportunities found for these preliminary results, the doors will be opened for a new interesting resource for the production of virgin olive oils.
GOP (2004). Economic survey. Islamabad, Pakistan: Finance Division, Economic Adviser's Wings, 14.
Abaza, I., Taamalli,W., Ben Temime, S., Daoud, D., Gutiérrez, F., Zarrouk, M. (2005). Natural antioxidant composition as correlated to stability of some Tunisian virgin olive oils. Rivista Italiana delle Sostanze Grasse, 82, 12–18.
Anwar, P., Bendini, A., Gulfraz, M., Qureshi, R., Valli, E., Di Lecce, G., Saqlan Naqvi, S.M., Gallina Toschi, T. (2013). Characterization of olive oils obtained from wild olive trees (Olea ferruginea Royle) in Pakistan. Food Research International, 54, 1965–1971.