You know it’s getting close to Christmas because around the 15th of November things come to a screeching halt in Italy. If you are checking your calendar, this would be right after mushroom season and the harvest of the grapes. Olive season starts around the middle of November and goes ‘til the end of the year.
It is a well known fact that people will take sick days and vacation time in order to spend hours and hours outside in all types of weather spreading nets, climbing ladders, raking trees, and lifting crates of fresh picked green and black olives to take to the “frantoio” (olive mill). Friends and family join together, offering an extra pair of hands for the harvest – in exchange for help in their own olive grove or (better yet) a bottle of the coveted fresh pressed extra virgin olive oil.
Olive oil is one of the oldest foods in the Mediterranean diet, and dates back as early as 4,000 BC – and if you would watch them harvest the olives, you would say that the method for picking them dates almost as far back. A very labour intensive process, which only makes the final result all that more delicious and prized!
Nets are spread around the olive trees, in order to catch every single one of the olives, and then a ladder is strategically placed to allow for the maximum amount of movement. The olives are picked carefully so that they don’t bruise too much before pressing by either the running of the hand along the branches or with very short handled rakes that “comb” them out of the trees.
Once the olives are harvested and rushed over to the mill (they have about 24 hours to get them pressed in order to maximize the freshness of the harvest) this thick, rich, green liquid is poured into bottles to be redistributed to all the “Good” people on Santa’s list. Extra virgin olive oil is in fact considered a gift of quality and is very much appreciated in the Italian community – especially if it comes from the giver’s personal Collection.