In late October the the topic of conversation, throughout the rural areas of central Italy, begins to revolve around la raccolata delle olive, the olive harvest. Olives, for the most part, will be harvested in November, but exactly when depends on the ripeness of the olives, the weather forecast, how much fango (mud) remains in the oliveto after recent rains and various other factors.
In November, when the right day arrives, friends and family gather in the groves and begin raking olives from the thick branches into large mesh-like nets stretched out beneath the trees. To reach those olives in upper branches, wooden ladders are sometimes propped up in the center of trees, and someone climbs up to rake from above.
My husband, Luigi, and I just finished harvesting our own olives. It’s our fourth year of harvesting, and we learn so much more each year. It’s truly one of the most enjoyable and fascinating events (and, yes, it is a true event) that I’ve ever taken part in.
Each year, on the morning that we begin harvesting, I’m always excited – like a child on Christmas morning! Plus, there’s a wonderful sense of camaraderie amongst those who are harvesting, and this year I felt that connection more deeply than ever.
As in previous years, we raked most of the olives – some shiny black, others green and some in between – and hand-picked others that hung on lower branches.Then we scooped the olives into crates, and took them down to our friend Riccardo’s frantoio, to be pressed into our olio di oliva extravergine 2012.
So the first part of the olive adventure ends with a completed harvest, and that’s where the second part begins, of course, with the pressing – an amazing process that deserves its own post.
Therefore, this simple olive story must be continued …
Pamela Haack is the founder of Off the Beaten Strada where she creates and organizes personalized experiences and specialty retreats in central Italy, for travelers who wish to be immersed in the history, culture and traditions of the region.
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