12 Apr The Harvest – Exquisite Olive Oil in the Making
The olive oil harvest is one of my favorite times of the year…
And, it has become a tradition for us since Amy and Mirco bought their farm, Costa Digiano. The harvest usually begins in mid to late October and extends into November, depending upon the weather.
The harvest day is long
It doesn’t end until the olives are safely delivered to the frantoio, or mill, for pressing. We generally start the day at 8 a.m. and finish harvesting around 4 or 4:30 p.m. before heading to the mill. We begin the day by spreading the green nets around two or three of the trees to catch the harvested olives. If a tree is on a slope — which it almost always is — we have to stake up the sides of the net so the olives don’t roll off the end. We refer to these as “escaped convicts”. No escaped convicts!
Once the first trees are netted and staked, we start combing the olives off of the trees and onto the nets. We use a combination of hand combs and a battery-powered electric comb. Clay dubbed the combs as “the magic machine”. It shakes back and forth while it is pulled through the branches. To get to the olives in the treetops, we climb into the trees with hand combs. We telescope the electric comb to its longest setting to reach the outer branches from the ground.
Once a tree has been harvested, we roll the nets.
We carefully pick the nets up by the edges and roll the olives into the center. Once the olives are in a big pile or two in the nets, we plop down on the ground to quickly remove as many leaves as possible. Costa Digiano’s ancient trees are mostly Mignola. This is a “sticky” varietal, meaning that when we harvest the olives, many leaves come with them. We want to remove enough leaves so that they don’t overwhelm the mill’s washing and de-leafing system. However, we want to leave enough to protect the olives from bruising and macerating before we can get them to the mill.
Next, we lift the olives with the net and pour them into several plastic crates, or cassettes. The crates are later stacked then placed on a truck headed to the mill at the end of the day. Then, it’s on to the next tree.
We all break at lunch to rest and share a simple meal then get back to work!
At the end of the day
We often meet up again after the olives are safely at the mill to share dinner and a glass of wine. The work is hard, but it’s glorious to be outside and to share the experience of the harvest with family and friends. That keeps us coming back year after year. That, and the fabulous olive oil that we bring home with us.
Here is a glimpse of harvesting the Mignola olive trees on Costa Digiano farm in Le Marche, Italy. October 2017.