October is here and it can only mean one thing for me: olive season is upon us!
Every year since my childhood we have collected the olives from my family house in Tuscany and made our own oil. Sometimes making enough to sell, other years making it just about enough for us. Other years making nothing because of pests (the fly which parasites the olives) or bad seasons meaning too much or too little rain. On Some years the olives are big and full of oil, on other are big and heavy but full of water , making the oil very expensive to make.
In these years I learnt things, learning something new every year :
2. supermarkets in general sell unbelievably cheap oil which is definitely made on an unsustainable scale. Between the picking (you might have to pay someone too or at least insure them , according to regulations), the olive groove maintenance, equipment, squeezing and packaging- it would be unsustainable to buy anything that is less than €7 euros a litre (for Tuscan oil at least) and that’s just to make up the costs.
3. it is good when something is a family business. It is all about keeping the traditions, with the new generations learning from the older, mixing kids with grandparents, everyone helping on the scale of their comfort (there are the little ones who picks the lowest olives , the older ones who advice with their expertise, and everyone in the middle using heavy equipment or climbing ladders)...
4. Where you bring your olives to be pressed into oil really matter . It is much better when they are also a nice business, with family present.
5. And last but not least.. Nature is a b....h , yes, and if you want to do anything organic you cannot really go against it but you should just go with it and adapt. For example learning to recognise when the fly is arriving and try get your olives before it is too late, but I suppose you could also do the rain and the sun dance, or just pray for the weather.. do what you have to do ;) I suppose it helps to be aware
Anyway I am learning, trying to get help from the older ones and trying to listen, as well as having some of my own ideas to try and make it my ethical venture .
And by the way if you are in Europe and looking for a new olive oil : I was just home last weekend and we started the season (we started on the first weekend, just in time before the fly...) - it came out tasting amazing (perhaps because we started early so there was a good mixture of green not yet mature and some nice dark ones) and is bright bright green! Of course is extra virgin and it is organic (although we don’t pay for the certification label anymore ..) and was pressed the traditional way in a great ‘frantoio’ ! I was so happy that I got to share this year picking venture with my Dutch friend Anna , showing her a bit of Italian way of life (and you may hear her experience on a guest blog post shortly too!)
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