At the end of October our friends Kay and Elsie from South Wales came over for a week to help us as usual with the olive harvest. They have been doing this for several years now. Elsie always celebrates her birthday with us and we usually go to the Bellavista to meet up with friends and celebrate there. This year we invited our friends Patrizia and Luca to join us for a pizza.
We were so pleased to have some olives on our trees this year, however they were sparsely spread throughout the grove which was definitely going to make gathering them a laborious task.
Pat and Melinda, have recently moved from Ohio to live permanently in nearby Minturno. Pat’s brother Mike has also bought a property there together with a small plot of land with about 20 olive trees on it. In Mike’s absence, Pat and Mindy had also decided to gather Mike’s olives as they could not bear the idea of the beautiful fruits to go to waste. Melinda, who is a keen, gathered some to put into brine to preserve them. They also wanted to make the remainder into fresh November extra virgin olive oil. In total they managed to gather five and half crates weighing 115 kilos, which they duly dropped off at Tre Cancelle.
Meanwhile we set to work, spreading the nets under our trees to hopefully catch the olives that Paul rattled off with the mechanical rake which is powered by compressed air.
However it was frustratingly slow going. The first day we only managed to gather two crates of olives.
Yet we did not let this dishearten us too much as over the next day or two we found an area of the grove where the trees were more abundant with olives. One morning Pat and Mindy and two of their American friends also came to our aid and with the extra hands available we finally managed to gather a total of six and a half crates.
So between us we had gathered a total of 266 kg. This was just perfect, because at our local olive mill there is a minimum batch size of approximately 250 kg, to ensure that there is no mixing with other producers’ olives. This is important to us because we, by choice, do not use any pesticides or herbicides in the maintenance of our trees and groves, trying to be as natural as possible.
Here are the olives ready to be transported to the olive mill in Itri.
Kay and Elsie’s visit to Itri seemed to fly by, and before it came to an end we decided to have a spot of lunch at another of our favourite haunts, the Miramare down by Sant’Agostino beach.
Before long we welcomed another couple of volunteers, our friends from South Africa, Adrian and Gerda.
This was to be their second visit to Tre Cancelle and their first experience of harvesting olives. They soon realised what they had let themselves in for.
Once again, over the next day or so, it was a hard slog although we did adopt a slightly different method, by lopping off the tops of the over-tall trees and retrieving the olives at ground level.
One morning we were also lucky to welcome two new American volunteers, more friends of Pat and Melinda, namely Pat and David, who kindly came to lend an extra two pairs of hands. Dave proved to be a dab hand at using the mechanical rake. They really seemed to enjoy the experience and we certainly enjoyed their company.
Our neighbour and good friend Michele then arrived with 40 kilos of olives that he had gathered on his own property to add to our haul. However we were still struggling to get a sufficient number of cases to make up a full batch of olives. Then at the very last minute, we remembered that there were a couple of trees close to the house, which had a fair few olives on them.
Despite our fatigue, and with the additional incentive of the thought of a late lunch at the Miramare, we found a new surge of energy for a final push. These remaining olives were quickly gathered. Hurrah !!!
Here we are enjoying a well earned late lunch once again at the Miramare and witnessing a magnificent sunset.
We then headed back home to Tre Cancelle and loaded the full crates of olives into our car.
When we unloaded them at the mill, which was buzzing with activity, the crates of olives were weighed. We were delighted that we had jointly gathered a total of 233kg of olives, again a sufficient quantity to be processed in one batch. We were told the oil would be ready to collect the following day.
The next evening we returned to the upper part of the olive mill where the olives are processed by being washed, then milled to produce a pulp, and then passed through a centrifuge to extract the oil.
We were incredibly lucky to get there just as “our oil” was being processed. The grassy aroma of the freshly pressed olives is just wonderful.
The pulp which is left after the extra virgin olive oil has been extracted is transported away and it is heat processed to extract oil of a lesser quality. The remaining pulp gets compressed to form briquettes or pellets for burning on a wood fire.
We then showed Adrian and Gerda another section of the mill, where olive fruit is graded and sorted for size and quality, destined to be preserved in brine for approximately six months and later to be sold as table olives.
When we got back home we couldn’t wait to try our newly pressed extra virgin olive oil.
It was absolutely delicious, having a aromatic scent of freshly mown grass, with a slight peppery taste, and a wonderful green hue. Nothing added or taken away, just the wonderfully natural product that mother nature intended it to be, and so unlike the majority of olive oil on sale in the UK.
On the final night of Adrian and Gerda’s stay we went to the Bellavista to celebrate an excellent week’s work. It seemed that all this hard work and exercise had caused Adrian to built up a substantial appetite as he managed to eat three whole pizzas !
Mamma Mia Adrian !!!
Sincere thanks to all our crazy volunteers for their hard work during this year’s olive harvest. How blessed we are to have such wonderful friends.
To all of you out there reading this, perhaps your appetites have been whetted, and if so you would be most welcome to come and join in the fun and games of the next Tre Cancelle harvest.
Photos by me, Melinda Abbott, Gerda Volschenk and Kay McRobbie.
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