For sure Extra Virgin Olive Oil (which has been lately called EVO) is the healthiest fat on Earth.
My dad used to work as a manager in automotive industry… he has done 35 year of job there, and as soon as he retired he started this activity of extra virgin olive oil production. He’ll never be praised enough for that, as we do have the best EVO we could afford.
I admit I used it excessively, till the bottle did that BLUB BLUB BLUB sound, that I adore.
We do not own many trees, just enough to cover our “family internal market”, but as many others in the last year we run into the apocalypse of the olive fly…. that reduced the harvest of 40% and spoilt our trees! This little winged bastard is really a plague, that is driving prices up to stars! So, as our production has been limited this year… I must use it with less excess… till the bottle make BLUB, instead of BLUB BLUB BLUB and that’s it!
Do not underestimate the hard work and the amount of capital needed to give out every year a good extra virgin olive oil. As quality level depends much on the harvest technique, I can really say that that is the most laborious and expensive extravaganza my family has to keep up our cooking and eating standards…
Harvesting olives can one of the most joyful experience of country life, it’s a great way to let off steam and stress, and can be a charming and bucolic, virginal experience …but it’s not a walk on the clouds.
We harvest olives in autumn or at the beginning of the winter, when weather is chilly but hopefully not raining. We harvest olives by beating the branches by hand or shaking the whole tree with special machines. As machines are not delicate and can crack our beloved branches, my father prefers the “by hand” technique… So, generally, he forces all the family to do it by hand, that literary consist in beating the threes with long and heavy sticks similar to umbrellas!
It’s strenuous, sometimes frustrating, dusty and populated by every kind of insects, that plunk down from the branches directly to your head!!!
There are many farms in Tuscany that offer this experience to American tourist. That would be great! But if you are considering to join the olive harvest, be aware: if you are not a truly country life lover, if you are not in good shape and trained, if you find spiders, bugs and insects revolting… that activity might not be for you, and after a couple of hours you’ll think “What did I get myself into?”
Unfortunately, if olives tumble down on the ground, they will give poor quality oil, with high acidity levels: olive trees usually grow in calcareous or clayish soils that cause a quick oxidation of the fruits that get in touch with the ground. That’s why the better results are obtained by hanging up huge nets under the trees and let the olives fall on the nets. That makes the beating fase more difficult as the net makes us stay far from the tree and we are not so…tall
When we are done with the harvest, we literary run to the local stone mill for the cold processing.
The process is incredibly simple… you just press the olives and the oil comes out.
But there it comes the other annoying part. Some of us should stay there all time long, stuck in front of the press, to guard the olives for hours and hours, without leaving the defence line even if he urges to go to the bathroom, just to make himself sure that the oil we receive had been squeezed out of our olives! In other word, we are all worried that hocus pocus our oil will be changed with someone else’s.
But it really worth, at the end!