Italy is known to have one of the best extra-virgin olive oils (EVO) in the world and is home to more than 700 types of olive cultivars.
A few days ago I showed you my personal olive harvest experience on Facebook, with my father and I picking olives at our family olive grove. This is exactly the time of the year we dedicate to this tradition: it usually starts in mid-October, although this can vary, depending on the climatic conditions.
In Abruzzo, and in many other parts of Central and Southern Italy, we spend the day among the groves to pick olives together with our family and friends, during the weekend but also on weekdays! Sometimes we take the days off just to enjoy this typical autumn activity.
It is a tough job! But spending the days in contact with your beloved ones and the excellence of EVO oil are the greatest rewards.
Traditionally, picking olives was done by hand, even in some commercial groves, and this is exactly what we want to keep doing and hand down to future generations. Of course it’s something that’s becoming unusual: there are many technologies available now to choose from according to the trees you have or the personal/commercial type of activity.
From olives to extra-virgin olive oil – what are the steps we follow to produce it?
As we said, doing it manually means using a rack, one branch at a time. We place some big nets below the trees, which will be used to gather the olives when they fall. At the end of this stage, they are placed in the center of the nets, transferred into small boxes and then transported by car or tractor to the mill.
2. Washing and pressing
Once at the mill, the olives are weighed (because the miller is paid according to the weight), and brought to an abundant washing in water. This is done with a special machine with a constant flow that invests the olives. The leaves are removed by another specific machinery.
Pressing can be done with very ancient instruments, but many mills today use modern hammer crushers. Everything gets pressed, including the seed.
This consists of a continuous mixing of the olive paste to reach the optimal temperature in which the natural enzymes are fully activated.
This phase consists in the separation of the oil from the solid fraction.
Finally, the oil is separated from the water thanks to the centrifugal force.
The new extra virgin olive oil (“Olio nuovo”) is celebrated together with the new wine production (“Vino novello”) during dedicated food festivals and at home, usually poured on bruschetta heated on the fireplace and chestnuts.
It’s not uncommon to hear people talking about it in the local market or the main squares. You might hear everyone talking about the year, wondering what’s the output: for example, if someone says “lu quinnc”, it means that 100 kg of olives have turned into 15lt of oil. This might change depending the location, the variety of olives and climate to 10, 12, 20, and so on.
This tour is specifically designed to let you be part of this! We will visit an olive grove that produces DOP extra-virgin olive oils. We will walk through the olive trees to help pick olives for a short time and you will learn the entire transformation process to the extra-virgin olive oil. Here you can find some tips to recognize the authentic one!
We will also enjoy an olive oil tasting and a traditional picnic lunch in the olive grove with pairings from local cheeses, wines, salami and other specialties.
The extra-virgin olive oil we will make together will be put in a bottle, decorated with a personalized label, so you will go home with a beautiful souvenir of this genuine and authentic experience.
Ready to experience Olive Harvest with us?
Get in touch today to help bring your dream tour into focus. If you are ready to discover Abruzzo, Italy with us, here you can find all the details of the tour we mentioned: Cultural, Culinary & Olive Harvest Experience in Abruzzo.
And if you’re not quite ready to make an inquiry, sign up for our free email course to learn everything you need to know about planning a tour of Abruzzo, Puglia or Emilia Romagna.
Fabrizio, Founder & Tour Guide, Italia Sweet Italia