We just completed our olive harvest last week, and although the quantities of olives this year were thirty percent less than last year, our olives were healthy (no olive fly), and we ended up with ninety liters of gorgeous cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil. We have three different varieties of olives, which give the final product a complex, full-flavored taste. One of the most challenging decisions is deciding when to pick. You want the olives to be ripe enough to come off the tree easily, but we also like our olive oil to have the sharpness that comes with picking the olives early. Then you have to worry about the weather, as we need three days to harvest, and picking in the rain is no fun at all. Some years we have had to pick with heavy coats and gloves. This year was extraordinary however, as we had three gloriously sunny days with temperatures in the high seventies to low eighties. In all the twelve years we have owned our property here in Umbria, this was by far the best harvesting weather!
The past few years, it has just been my husband, myself, and our handyman harvesting our hundred trees over three days. This year, good friends from Canada flew over to join in the fun to give us a hand. By day three, we were a well-oiled machine, and it was great fun to share the harvesting experience with friends. There truly is nothing more satisfying than being able to create your own organic, delicious olive oil. I wish everyone could taste freshly pressed oil to understand just how amazing it really is! This year we had a new olive mill open up just down the street from us, which made things even more manageable. We had only a short ride to take our crates of olives to the mill, and we were able to press our olives each day, which results in better tasting oil. Frantoia Fratini is a gorgeous mill run by a wonderful family, and our experience with them was very positive. They also press their own olive oil, which is delicious tasting.
Proper placement of the nets is one of the most important aspects of the harvest as you do not want to lose any olives. A lot of our trees are on slopes, so having an expert like our handyman Gino set the nets is very helpful.
We harvest the olives by hand with rakes, with a branch shaking apparatus that shakes the olives off of the branches, and then we even crawl into the trees to ensure all of the olives within the trees have been picked. Both Linda and Mike were good sports climbing the olive trees!
We have three types of olives growing on our property which creates a full-flavored olive oil when mixed. Even our little dog Zoe was taking part in the harvest this year!
Taking the olives to Frantoio Fratini to start the pressing process. The olives are first dropped into large vats where they are separated from leaves and small branches, then they are washed before moving into the mill to be crushed and the oil to be extracted.
I Potti de Fratini, our local olive mill just opened weeks before we took our olives there. Family run and brand spanking new, the mill sits up on the crest of a hill with gorgeous views overlooking the valley. My husband and Matteo look quite pleased with this year’s olive oil!
Thanks Linda & Mike Kilburn for helping out with the harvest this year!
The final product which makes all the hard work so worthwhile.
Deborah Mele October 2019