Olive Harvest in Cortona

14 Oct

Olive harvesting for many in Italy is a family affair. Italian families love their gardens and harvest their olives, like their fruits and vegetables, for their own consumption. Their olives are usually harvested by hand, producing a better quality oil.

Ancient olive trees are among the heartiest of trees – they grow well in most soils and some have born fruit for centuries. The trees even retain their green leaves year round.

Although I have walked by them for years, yesterday I finally came face to face with the first trees I would pick.

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

Our friends Massimo and Daniela, and their sons Niccolo and Edoardo, have about 14 trees that were ready for harvesting. With only a handful of pickers, this was a two-day project. Len picked both days,

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

As did new friends Sandy and Rudy.

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

Picking olives is not difficult but it is time-consuming and at times back aching. Sometimes pickers are on ladders or up in the trees, carefully stripping the olives from upper branches,

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

while other times they stand below, working branches at arms reach.

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

We placed long orange nets around each tree to collect the falling olives, being very careful not to step on them.

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

Sometimes, it seemed as though it was raining olives. A long plastic rake, called a pettina or manina, is used to reach tall parts or dense areas in the center of the tree. The tools are used to gently rake the olives off each branch, and as they fall to the net below, there is the sensation of raining olives. Here Rudy is demonstrating the technique.

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

A few olives have a less direct path and may tap you on the head or shoulder on their way down, or even land in your shirt or pocket. I found a few after we got home.

When a tree was empty, the olives would be gently rolled up in the net and then placed in a bin.

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

And off we’d go, moving the nets to the next tree. Usually 2-3 would work a tree together.

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

Weather is important because if it rains, the olives can rot before they are pressed. We were fortunate. Although the skies threatened, the rain held off and gave us the time we needed to finish picking.

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

Although some leaves naturally fall with the olives, seasoned olive pickers can pick olives with fewer leaves. We were all pretty careful, and tried to clean as we went along. I’m told a few leaves are fine as they impart a good taste.

Although some leaves naturally fall with the olives, seasoned olive pickers can pick olives with fewer leaves. We were all pretty careful, and cleaned as we went along. I'm told a few leaves are fine as they impart a good taste. Here I am removing any stray leaves, and here is a penny tiny snail that was clinging to one of the leaves. Picked olives range in size and color; they can be green, purple, yellow or black, and they differ from tree to tree.

Picked olives range in size and color; they can be green, purple, yellow or black, and they differ from tree to tree.

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

Naturally, no matter what they are doing, Italians always take time for pranzo, or lunch. I missed the incredible lunch served in the garden on Monday, but yesterday, Massimo served us a delicious lunch at Tuscher Caffe.

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

Pici al Fumo ©Blogginginitaly.com

Pici al Fumo ©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

And here are some of the workers enjoying lunch:

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

After lunch, Len and I returned with Daniela and Nicco for what we thought was one small last tree. However, there was still work to be done, as all the olives needed to be ready the next morning to take to the frantoia for pressing.

Working in the garage, we sorted and sorted and filled four large containers.

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

Until all the leaves were gone…

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

So this is what I’ve learned:

Harvesting is more than picking olives. It is a gathering of family and friends, new and old, working together, surrounded by nature’s beauty. It is a time filled with friendship, smiles, stories, and the joy of being in touch with nature. It is a tradition, passed on from generations, and thriving for future ones. And lucky for me, unlike grapes, bees don’t hang out around olives.

During lunch, and after the day was done, looking around at our tired and achy group, I noticed one more thing – we shared the kind of glow that comes from pitching in together for a job well done.

Tomorrow we go to the frantoio to watch our picked and sorted olives become olive oil. And then we get to taste it. Stay tuned for Part 2!

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

And many thanks to Daniela and Massimo for giving us this opportunity – such a great pleasure and learning experience. Count us in for next year!

Ciao,

Judy

 

20 Responses to “Olive Harvest in Cortona”

  1. Charles David Dreher October 14, 2015 at 2:49 PM #

    Aloha Judy,
    Stay out of the trees 🙂
    Shake, shake, shake
    BIG Hugz,
    Charles on island

    Liked by 1 person

  2. annagrassini October 14, 2015 at 3:03 PM #

    Fabulous post! But you went to frantoio—it’s masculine!!!

    Life is Amazing! Live well, Anna Grassini Career and Life Coach http://www.lifeinbalancecoach.com

    Sent from my IPhone

    >

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Roberto October 14, 2015 at 3:06 PM #

    I’m a Facebook friend of Keith von Barkenhagen, who is right now in the next orchard doing the same thing for his product, L’ Arte dell Olivo! Wish I could be there to help≥

    Liked by 1 person

    • blogginginitaly October 15, 2015 at 1:36 AM #

      I’ve heard of him as friends of ours were staying with them recently and the other couple we were with Tuesday know him as well.

      Like

  4. Deb Feo October 14, 2015 at 3:09 PM #

    Fabulous post – I felt like I was there … I wish I was there!

    Liked by 1 person

    • blogginginitaly October 15, 2015 at 1:37 AM #

      I’m so glad as I really wanted to share this great experience!

      Like

  5. Florence Larsen October 14, 2015 at 3:12 PM #

    That was fabulous!!! Looking forward to some of the wonderful olive oil!! Xo

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Giovanna Jackie Dimetros October 14, 2015 at 3:34 PM #

    What a BEAUTIFUL post Giuditta!! I so enjoyed seeing what Italians do to enjoy their lives, share their passions with family and friends, and just take pleasure in doing the simplest things.

    Brava!…. You are truly un’italiana…. you “get” it!!

    Abbracci, Giovanna

    Like

    • blogginginitaly October 15, 2015 at 1:57 AM #

      Giovanna, coming from you, a native italiana, this is quite a compliment. I am smiling from ear to ear, as this is exactly what Len and I have always hoped to experience! xoxo

      Like

  7. Fr Chuck Faso OFM October 14, 2015 at 11:10 PM #

    Grazie for the lesson in olive picking – hard work and lots of fun. Enjoy the pressing!
    Pace e Bene!
    Padre Carlo Faso OFM

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Diana October 15, 2015 at 3:29 AM #

    Looks like so much fun…my godmother picks the olives every year outside of Rome…and every year I say I am going to bring the kids to do it with her and never do. Maybe next year….

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Vera October 15, 2015 at 6:10 AM #

    Well done you all!! Nothing better than a new and tasty olive oil. Say hello to Dani and Massimo.

    Like

  10. jean October 15, 2015 at 8:36 AM #

    Hopping on the train out from Paris tomorrow and will be in Cortona on Saturday. Well, you did it Judy; it looks like you held off the rain.
    I’m a wreck right now from trotting around Museums but will try to get the rest I need for the olives. Thanks for the photo of climbing the tree – I win a bet if I can get one of me in a tree.
    But I didn’t bring a stylish hat like yours 😦
    Keep up that good weather!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. karenincalabria October 16, 2015 at 8:49 AM #

    Fantastic pictures and post – a great first-hand account of olive picking! (And lunch looked great, too!)

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: