This year I've spent a few days with a couple of friends in central Italy that grow olives and make oil out of them. The subject matter has always fascinated as olives and oil made out of them is, perhaps, the one thing that all mediterranean nations have in common, although every country have its own way of growing olives and making oil.
Here's a short story about the traditionally italian oil production process.
Here are the two guys – Pino & Luca – that make the oil. It's a hobby for both of them, the production is limited and they're pretty unusual case as agriculture is not very popular among younger italians.
In the beginning of the season olive trees must be trimmed. There are two important reasons for this: firstly that helps produce better fruit (less fruit, but of higher quality) and secondly it makes the harvest easier to handle – the branches growing upwards get trimmed most of the time so that harvest is easier.
It's a tough job despite all the fancy gear.
On the left we're in the summer, just before trimming and on the right it's autumn and the green nets on the ground are used to collect olives.
The harvest is basically a process of using a mechanical brush on the tree so that olives drop on the ground where the green net is used to collect the fruit.
The most important trick in this game is strategically placing the nets on the ground, that is never plain or easy to handle.
Than you just "brush" the tree and olives start raining down.
Some cleaning begins immediately afterwards, on the ground.
Olives end up in plastic crates
Oil production requires olives to be not as ripe as the ones we're used to see in pizza or salad. They have to be somewhere between black (or red, in this case), which is 100% ripe and green, which's "not so ripe". The best olives for oil are the smaller ones.
Freshly picked olives must be carefully cleansed
The sooner you get the olives to the mill the better. Picked fruit tends to ripe faster and go bad pretty quickly, so usually a two-three day worth of olives have to be brought to a mill after a day of picking.
You have to wait in a line alongside a ton or so of olives (in our case) until you get to use the mill
and finally see your oil – bright yellow, as if it were liquid gold – pouring into special inox containers.
It takes the olives on the right (roughly 12 pounds) to make just 1lt of oil (on the left).
Thanks for looking!
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Omne solum forti patria est.