October and November are the buzzing months of the year. Throughout the valley you hear a hum of machines and see the colourful nets that cover the ground like autumn leaves. All the work, noise, nets and effort are for one purpose – the almighty olive!
After watching the amount of back breaking labour needed to create oil, I will never take for granted whenever I pour from a bottle. The whole process is intense! First come the nets. The nets are tied to the bottom of the trees and are wide enough to capture every wayward piece of fruit. (Yes, olives are fruit!)
Next, the olives are “helped” to the ground. This is either done by hand or by shaking a branch with a specialised portable machine. The machine is like a long vibrating arm and during the harvest you can hear them flare up across the countryside. The sound is everywhere and the valley sounds like a giant bee hive! From the first light of morning to the red glow of sunset there is a constant buzz!
Once the olives have been gathered in the nets, the cargo is then taken to the “frantoio” or pressing plant. Timing is vital! Every passing hour is working against you! Why is this so important to olive oil producers? Because as time passes the water content evaporates and increases the acidity level in the fruit. The longer they sit the higher the acidity level and the more bitter the oil. This is critical and timing very important! A high acidic level means the quality of the oil changes and the “extra virgin” category is lost!
While olives are can be plentiful, the oil produced from them is not. Oil is a precious gift but a reluctant one. Every olive counts!