Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Olio Nuovo (New Oil)

I have had some people tell me that November is their favourite time of year in Italy. The air is heavy with the smell of burning olive branches, which is a sort of sweet smokey smell and provides for the most beautiful sunsets. And it is the time when all the new oil comes out. The oil is fresh and almost grassy tasting. It is very green.

We went up with some friends to their olive grove on the weekend to help pick olives. The minimum amount that is required for pressing is 500 kilograms, which will apparently make somewhere close to 50 litres of oil.

First you need to spread nets around the base of the tree. You try to make sure there are no big holes or gaps. Then you start picking and dropping the olives down on the nets, trying not to squish them as you move around. There are a type of machine arm that shakes the olives from the branches, but we were picking the old school way, by hand. We sent a few children up the trees with little plastic rakes, other people were picking from the lower branches and two adults were up ladders, reaching the olives the children could not reach.

I really enjoyed this experience. The work was hard but there was such a great community feel, it made the day go by much more quickly. We stopped for lunch around an open fire, where sausages were grilled. Then back to the picking. The next step is to gather the olives into a pile and then pick out as much leaves and twigs as possible.

Then the olives are bagged ready to go to be pressed. It will take most of the week picking every day to get 500 kilos.

We will go with our friends when it is time for the pressing. I love the idea of knowing where our food comes from and the process necessary to get from tree to table. I know I wouldn't want to be a full time olive picker, but I really enjoyed the day with friends, I even got to climb a tree and I know my children had a lot of fun too.

1 comment:

  1. I LOVE it! What a cool, uniquely Italian experience for everyone. Will you guys go back to help some more, or are the kids done with that? Your expression in the tree is a bit, um . . . less-than-thrilled honey. I know you were having fun inside though. We are in a week of rainy weather here, so enjoy those gorgeous Italian sunsets. I have ditched knitting my big sweaters and have discovered arm and leg warmers on double-point. Will post pics soon.