10.15.2012

An Olive Harvest

olive tree

Gorgeously gnarled and twisted olive trees--at least 500 years old--dotted the hilltop at the country villa where we stayed in Morro d'Oro, Abruzzo, Italy. The beautiful texture of the bark alone would have been worthy of an entire afternoon of sketching!

olive picking 4

Instead, a group of us spent an afternoon under the warm sun picking olives from the younger "cousins" of these trees! (The smaller trees were "only" about 200 years old). The beginning of the olive harvest begins right around the first of October, so we were there at the perfect time.

olive trees olive tree2 olive picking 3

What a special opportunity it was to pick olives in the Italian countryside! It sounded like such a novelty, like it would be a fun and memorable experience. The thing we didn't expect was that it would actually be work! The owner and staff at the villa wanted us to experience picking olives the "old fashioned" way so that we might appreciate each drop of olive oil as a precious treasure--in a good year, only 9-10% of the total weight of the olive harvest actually becomes olive oil!

olive picking 5

They don't harvest olives with these little hand rakes anymore. Now just two men can bring in the entire harvest--they drive around on a machine that attaches to each tree, shakes the tree hard for 30 seconds, and catches the olives as they simply fall from the branches. Not only is this method quicker and and easier, shaking the trees benefits the roots by bringing in extra oxygen.

olive picking refreshments

Even as we worked harvesting olives, the Italians continued to spoil us. One of the waiters--a sweet, smiling young man with braces and wearing a bright orange apron--walked around among the trees serving water and wine. I think it was meant to be a taste of the way the olive-picking women in the "old days" would fortify themselves with wine and a hearty meal in the early mornings before going out to harvest all day. Of course, they wouldn't have been blessed with such service even as they worked! Sometimes we were picking olives one-handed, as the waiter pressed another glass into our grasp anytime he noticed our hands were empty. Such generous and genuine hospitality in Italy! I've never experienced anything else like it.
 Olive picking view

Oh, and we were spoiled by the view too. It was like Heaven on Earth!!!
 olive picking 6

14 comments:

  1. Amazing pics - and I love olives..! :-)

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  2. I think I said this before, but oh, are you kidding me? I just don't have words for pictures this amazing. Picking olives in one hand and sipping wine out of the other... bliss!

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    1. It was bliss for sure, Aimee! Thanks for your sweet comments. The whole trip was one of those experiences where I knew even as I was snapping away that my pictures wouldn't do it justice. It was just that amazing. Plus, I still don't really know how to use my camera that well! Ha! Now I need to work on the rest of the photos for next week..

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  3. What an incredible experience! Maybe we can try to add this to our list if we get to Germany next year. My sisters family is stationed there with the Air Force. I hope you have more to share with us..... The colors are beautiful, you are right, the textures and shapes of the trees just makes me turn to mush. Beautiful! Savor it!

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    1. Thank you, Anna! I will be sharing more pics from Italy next week--I'm just a little slow because I took so many and need to work on them in Photoshop a little.

      Oooh, I hope you make it to Germany next year! It really is beautiful here.

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  4. Very interesting...I can honestly say I have never really thought about how they are harvested. What a view! It would be hard to leave a place like that. June Maddox

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  5. What an amazingly beautiful opportunity. So happy to read a long.
    Your flying sister,
    Helena

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  6. This sounds delightful! I'm dying to go on one of these creative retreats!

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  7. How completely amazing!!! Beautiful!!

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  8. Sadee!!! Wow what a gorgeous blog you have. Your art is amazing, like mindblowingly beautifully amazing!!!
    These pictures are great, but your not fooling me with all the beautiful scenery everywhere. I know what hard work picking those trees were, I still have the farmers tan to prove it :)
    I'm so glad to have found your online home and see you here. Hope all is well.
    Jane

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  9. Amazing!!! It is so fun to see pictures and read about your experience. It looks beyond amazing. I'm very happy to hear that you had such a wonderful time. :)

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  10. Such gorgeous snapshots of the olives and Italian countryside! I'm dying to know, did the olives taste different? Better?

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    1. I had never thought about this before, but you don't eat olives straight from the tree. They have to cure in vinegar and spices for a while first, like pickles. One girl tried an olive raw, and said it was the worst thing she'd ever tasted in her life! They didn't actually serve us olives with our meals very often. The few I didn eat were AMAZINGLY delicious!

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Thank you for being kind with your words and generous with your time!