What an experience! I’d like to share it with you through these images and stories.
When I bought the plot of the olive orchard I was told that the first week of November I would need to harvest my olives. I found out there were two choices: either harvesting by hand, using a kind of ‘shading rakes’ (which would take up to three days), or using the faster option (only three hours): a machine that shakes the trees. I really wanted to respect my centuries-old trees, and shaking did not sound attractive, but I did not have much time. Plus my neighbor, who advises me, recommended using the shaking machine, which he also uses for his own harvest “It won’t damage the trees too much, promised”
Still, with a heavy heart, I came to watch the men work, and the trees shake… Early in the morning – with beautiful light – 6 men were picking the ripe olives from my trees. Nets were put under each tree. The tractor shook the branches one by one (fortunately not the entire tree at once, as I had feared). Men with sticks ‘invited’ even more olives to fall. And then in a very orchestrated way, almost a dance, everybody moved.
The nets were folded, olives plus leaves collected in buckets, and brought to the truck, where another shaking machine separated the leaves from the olives. The olives were then ‘spit out’ through the air and landed in the truck. The pile of olives grew and grew.
I even got to try the job myself (it is heavy and difficult!) and was invited to take a picture on the ‘shaking tractor’, on the condition that I would not touch anything. I hardly dared to move: what a monster machine this was!
Before I knew it, the truck was full of olives and the job was done. Everybody seemed content with the result. My trees were old and big and so the harvest was beyond expectation. I followed the truck to the ‘frantoio’, the olive pressing facility. Upon arrival, the truck was weighed and after unloading the olives, it was weighed again. That’s how they got the weight of the olives, very smart. In total, we collected 1620 kg of olives!
Then I had to wait till it was my turn for my olives to be processed. Farmers with trucks full of olives drove in and others drove off with big cans of their freshly pressed oil. Everybody harvests their olives in the same week here in Puglia. When my olives were being processed, I was invited to watch and take pictures. There is a long line of machines. First, the olives are separated from the remaining branches and leaves, then washed. Then they are ground into a paste, out of which the oil is extracted. At the end of the line, a beautiful golden-green oil comes out of the machine.
I was so proud, this is my oil! I wanted to taste the oil and went looking for a cup. There was another farmer, waiting for his oil, who wanted to chat. I talked to him a bit but then focused again on my oil. How often do you get to experience your own oil being processed, right? But even as I was filming, he kept trying to attract my attention. It became a bit annoying, especially as I was tasting the oil and commenting in front of the camera. At one point I understood I was not allowed to film and left the factory. Ten minutes later somebody from the facility told me (again) that my olives were now being processed. Huh? Didn’t I just film that? It turns out the processing I had filmed, was that of the ‘annoying’ farmers olives! The oil I had tasted was his oil! No wonder he was ‘protecting’ his oil and trying to get my attention…
All in all, the result of my 1620 KG was 230 litres of oil! The PH value turns out to be the lowest possible: only 0,3%. The PH value of the oil turns out to be only 0.3%! (FYI: for extra virgin oil this value can be between 0.2% and 0.8%, virgin olive oil goes up to 2%, so my oil is almost the lowest possible percentage).
What a day! In the morning the olives were still on my trees and just a few hours later … the first oil is going to be eaten with bread and on the traditional pasta with garlic and pepperoncini. Buon appetito!
Do you want to taste my oil? You can order it here, for yourself or as an original present.