When we hear of polyphenols it is usually in relation to what they do that is good for us. Polyphenols are found in plants and are powerful anti-oxidants that put the smack-down on free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that, due to their instability, damage cells. My husband, the scientist and engineer, could give you a more thorough explanation, but Olive Crazy is the writer in the house.
So, when olives are crushed and the first batch of unprocessed extra virgin olive oil is milled out, the resulting oil is high in the good-for-you polyphenols. The polyphenols eliminate the extra electron in free radicals, saving you for pursuits like living to a healthy and ripe old age so you can enjoy your grandchildren.
But Olive Crazy, you say, your title says that polyphenols are bad too – what do you mean?
Polyphenols are bad when they are heavily present in olive waste used as fertilizer. The polyphenols can reach toxic levels and harm the soil and plant growth that the fertilizer is intended to help.
Thanks to the University of Sevilla (Spain) School of Agricultural Engineering, a study was conducted on the use of alperujo as a fertilizer in organic farming. The alperujo is a byproduct of a two-phase centrifugation olive oil milling process. It is all the olive waste that is left over, solid and liquid, after all the olive oil has been extracted.
The alperujo can be used to generate energy and is being used to do so at two power plants in Cordoba, Spain. It can also be used as mulch after careful composting. The composting process reaches high temperatures which destroys pathogens and weed seeds, breaks down the polyphenols, and converts the organic waste into a stable humus, ready to use in the place of chemical fertilizers.
This technology has been around for a few years, but despite the potential cost savings and environmental advantages the processing technology is not widely available and research money isn’t either. The Spanish government is busy paying for the storage of past harvests which, by the time the oils are bottled, will have fewer of the healthy polyphenols than our bodies need, but that’s another story.
May the sun shine through your branches.