One thing I really wanted to do on this vacation was to learn more about olive oil and what better way to do that then to learn the process from the ground up. Andreas is a dear friend of Angela and Davino's and his olives were ready- now. So we jumped in the car and drove up the hill to his grove of densely populated trees. A crew was already picking so we pulled on our boots and went to work.
Andreas admiring his bounty.
Large nets are spread out on the ground to catch the olives as they drop. We are careful not to step on the collected olives. I am reminded of the I Love Lucy episode where she steps on the grapes to make the wine!
The net catches the fruit.
Kim climbs a tree to reach the top olives. I learn to just gently release the fruit from the branches by pulling with a downward motion. Kind of like removing rosemary or tarragon from their stem. It feels natural and soon I have a rhythm. My mind relaxes and the only thing I'm thinking of is how therapeutic this is. Sort of like weeding only more fun.
Some trees are loaded, some slim. Some trees carry green olives and a few purple, others thick with mostly smooth- skinned deep purple olives. As I harvest one particularly beautiful tree, I say the olives are too gorgeous to pick. This generates a few laughs as we know they all must be stripped naked to enjoy the benefits of their pressing.
They look like grapes, yes?
Once several trees are picked, Sauro shows me how to gather up the nets around the trees tilting them so the olives roll together into a central meeting place. These olives are then poured into a large crate which will be transported to the olive mill just down the road.
Sauro is Andreas' lead olive expert who also prunes the trees and watches over every stage of growth. His smile is infectious!
Rain starts to fall which means it is a good time to stop for a drink of water. Minutes later and we are back in business. A wafting of mint fills the air around the trees as all the wild herbs have released their scent with the rain. Could it get any better than this?
My olive-picking partner, Angela, and me in our harvest boots.
With the crates filling up, it is time for lunch. How lucky we are to be the beneficiaries of Kim, Andreas' girlfriend's cooking. She is Vietnamese and has prepared warm and tasty spring rolls which we gobble up with a crisp Proseco.
The next course – what a farmer's lunch – is traditional Goulash. A thin paprika sauce envelopes tender chunks of meat accompanied by perfectly steamed potatoes. Delightful.
Kim's paprika infused Goulash
Red wine from the region is poured and again I am loving and appreciating every drop realizing that it is not available in the States.
Our hosts Andreas and Kim toasting the harvest.
Grazie Andreas for including me in your harvest and welcoming me into your home. The friends I am meeting here are warm, friendly and happy in life.
Next up- the pressing of the olives! Story coming soon!