Every November I have been in Italy since meeting Renato and Giuliana and their family in Casignano, outside of Florence, I have participated in the annual olive harvest, normally mid-November. I now live in the hills of Tuscany and do not travel often to Florence so much. This November, it was only a dinner and short visit with this family that I enjoy.
Near my home, friends and I helped my landlord and his brother with the harvest of some of their trees. The land here is steeper with terraces, much more than the sloping, gently rolling hills of my former harvest site. I did pick some olives, although this year I did not climb the trees as I love to do. However, this was the first time that I cooked lunch for the workers! This is not my forte and things did not go as planned, but the men were nice and my friend Kumiko had her fun calling me “Mam-ma!” in a voice which to me sounded as if she were imitating a baby saying her very first word. This made my landlord laugh. I was happy that I made for the dolci at the end of the meal my Aunt Carole’s recipe for zucchini bread and it was a big hit! [Thanks, AC!]
As they moved most of the nets to the next section of land, I went to the bottom of the hill to gather the olives from the first section into a pile and put them into the bags that the guys left for later. I discovered that many of the nets had holes in them and one of the burlap bags did. So, I returned to my house and brought back needle, thread, and scissors, and started sewing. This was really better for my injured knee, as I sat on the terraced ground to stitch. (I found out yesterday that the tibia bone was broken and the ligaments are having problems as well) My landlord’s dog Gregory was not much of a help. He rarely sits still and prefers to have me throw olive leaves at him for a game. If I leave him alone too long, he starts to chew on the nets to get my attention!
My landlord Nori told me that when he was a child doing the harvest with his grandfather, it took about a month for the family to pick all of the olives because everything was done by hand. Nori’s Aunt Geneveffa recently explained that in those days, they did not have nets for the ground. So, the men climbed up the trees to pick while the women remained on the ground to gather the olives that landed there. Today many Italians use a machine that has electronic fingers to shake the branches. There is an extended arm for this “hand” that allows a longer reach and believe me, at the end of the day, you are thoroughly tired. Each year, someone somewhere falls off of a tree during the harvest. Sadly, I know a woman in Chianti who fell “just wrong” and is now paralyzed from the waist down!
In any event, I hope that you enjoy my favorite images that I took of the beginning of the olive harvest this year. These images were taken from the 12th to the 16th, with the oil made on the 18th this month. It was right around the time of the SUPER MOON (in which the moon was physically closer to the Earth, making it look larger than most other times).
As my neighbor Paul said, “Once you know how much work really goes into this, there is no complaint on the price!” Green gold, indeed. Before I moved to Italy, I thought olive oil was yellow… it is, if it is old. Nori asked Paul to take an image of the oil from our pickings, which I include here. I had gone to the bronze-casting foundry and missed this visit to the frantoio [oil mill]. However, I still have neighbors to help and for some, the olive harvest continues through December… in the old days, even longer! Enjoy.
La Raccolta delle Olive in Tuscany, Italy
Olive Harvest in the trees of Italy
Nori and Paolo's potatoes, with their rosemary, my oregano from my little potted plant, rose sea salt e freshly ground pepper, then lightly drizzled with olive oil. This image is before the one-hour-in-the-oven. So easy that even I did it!