Have you ever thought what it might be like to go on holiday and pick olives? Since coming to Italy several years ago I have always wanted to see what it was like to pick grapes and olives. Well last week I was able to achieve one of those goals.
I was invited by a friend to stay at her house and help her Italian friends pick olives from their 100 trees. You might think that 100 doesn’t sound that many but believe me it’s hard work and you can get a lot of olives from those trees.
As we were picking in November I wrapped up warm expecting it to be a little chilly. My goodness, was I wrong. The temperatures soared to 21 degrees and luckily enough I had worn a tee-shirt under my jumper. The Italian pickers thought I was a bit mad as they kept their jumpers in place and even had fleeces on. The camaraderie amongst all the pickers is fantastic and a lot of laughing and joking can be heard through the trees.
First of all they put the nets under the trees to catch the olives as they fall. For the upper branches they use a special brush like machine to reach the olives, which is quite a lot of fun even when you get hit on the head by flying olives. For the lower half of the tree it’s all hands to the branches to strip them of their wonderful quarry. The feel of olives coming from the tree by your own hands is amazing. You can get a little messy when picking so wearing old clothes is a must. When all the olives have been taken from the tree they shake them to one corner of the netting and then pour them into a basket ready to go onto the waiting tractor.
When all the trees have been stripped they are taken to the local olive press so that all the gorgeous oil can be extracted. In Italy the season of Nouvo Olio is a big one with everyone talking about it and comparing the spicy oil, which is ideal for dipping your fresh bread or for making bruscetta.
I was lucky enough to go to the local olive press to see the next process for the olives. The smell as you walk in is amazing, who would have thought that fresh pressed olives would smell so good? First of all they fall through the hatch and are caught onto the conveyer belt which then takes them to the huge pressing cogs. At this point it is very noisy so I beat a hasty retreat to watch the oil coming out of the pipes and into the awaiting vats.
If you’re lucky the press will offer you a tasting of the fresh pressed oil. This is one of the best parts of the olive picking process, you get to sample the fresh, almost, peppery oil on crusty bread. It’s amazing! Just make sure that you’ve got a drink of water close to hand in case it’s a little too peppery for you.
The press where I went, you could also purchase the oil in a range of different sized containers and bottles, all professionally sealed for you. You can purchase oil in little bottles up to huge 2 litre tins, the little bottles do make ideal gifts.
If you would like to find out more about the wonderful opportunities to pick olives, gather porcini or hunt truffles around the Umbrian, Tuscan countryside or the many other memorable days out you can have, please contact Travelling Content for more information.
Author Suzanne Winfield