Olive Oil Harvest Project: Day 1

The crisp waft of fresh green unpolluted serene smell of the morning air always brightens any day doesn’t it? Perhaps I savor my “dark” early mornings to a point where I treat it more like a cult like ritual approach that none other in their right minds would understand. Or maybe the giddy feeling of “accomplishment” dealt by waking up early, and knowing my days will be longer…seems a bit too personal. How ever one would see the brisk early morning hours, it’s nothing compared to a productive perspective. All this rattling and weird fuzzy sensation about the morning delights may not make sense to most of us, but for an individual who relishes and depends on the perfect early A.M. for their day-to-day concoction of labor is priceless. Fisherman and farmers alike, live for the early break of sunrise. Knowing when the fishies are active and when and where to get the right spots on time are all crucial for a productive time out in the sea. And for farmers alike who’d need to harvest specific crops under specific process/procedure are all under scrutinized time in order to maintain the qualitative characteristics their crops are capable of producing from the beginning to end. As obvious as I may be inferring, I’m talking about the process of an extra virgin olive oils.

A day in life of harvesting season is quite relaxing for those who are able and patient. From sunrise to sunset, a full 12 hours time of laborious activity, absorbing the sunlight, and depending on which season, the formidable climate. From pulling, pushing, climbing, dragging, lifting, and often times picking tasks are not the only thing that gets tiring and dull, but combining that with a restricted time limit could be an overkill for a days work. Or in a more urban atmosphere think of it as a waiter/ess taking multiple orders, and busing tables, over a medium-sized establishment, all by themselves. It’s difficult no doubt, but not impossible. Your mind keeps moving just as your body, and you need to make every second count and avoid any unnecessary movements. You have to organize, prioritize, and capitalize your execution so to dish out/in the food on time, put a smile to that face and earn that extra tip, but more importantly for that satisfied customer to come back for another day.

Waking up near 6 in the morning, I jump up and prepare for the day. Loud and obnoxious, I wake up with a bewildering sound incomprehensible to any known man and soon orchestrate a synchronized tangent of unorthodox sounds of all available nearby objects capable of making the tiniest of a “squeak” even a rat would wake up to. To my surprise, swiftly and quietly my humble host poofed right into my room like a magician throwing me off my rhythm, half staring at me with his bloodshot hangover look the other half still asleep, and orders me to go back to sleep. A moment of silence, then he nods to the window and just leaves. Confused to what just happened and trying to make sense as to what he meant, I looked out the window, it’s raining. Like an excited child waking up on Christmas morning to check what big ol’ parents, I mean Santa, has brought me this year, I was soon disillusioned immediately like a guilty verdict for a crime I did not commit. Nervous, sweaty, and excitement had all withered away to a realization that mother nature deemed today as a no go. Nothing else to do, I strip down and hit back the sack…(To be continued)

 

 

“TEASER”

note:
Rain may yield great for plants, but come harvesting time, it’s the nemesis of all olive farmers second to olive fruit flies. (and for some, their significant other[s])

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Olive Oil Harvest Project: Prelude

At an attempt to represent and give a little exposure to what many would easily overlook and not give a care in the world, I hope my venture in “a day in a life of a farmer” would bring some enlightenment if not joy. Although the harvesting process for olive oils are to be started and finished in a day’s work, in order to raise the climactic antics of this literary piece, it will be extended beyond just one day (also since I didn’t have the energy to take pictures, write, think, and work all at once). As dull as it can be, I assure you it is one of the most interesting experiences, besides puberty, that I am proud to say I’ve done something worthwhile and enjoyed. And though I have vouched to keep my blog precisely informative and less of self, keeping it unbiased, I’m hoping this “journal” project will not deter those hungry only for the knowledge, rather will in turn be knowledge.

To give a premise to this certain situation, I have just traveled to a very remote, very secluded Italian village, though small, yet typical under Italian culture (population of under 10,000). And there, followed my passion for awesome extra virgin olive oil which we here in the states had vastly misconceived. Literally digging deep within the locals hidden gem, with the language barrier to consider mind you, I realized passion could do wonders. With one highly prized locale, regionally well-known and locally adored olive oils, I had the opportunity to side with the locals and get my hands dirty. Like an investigative reporter, I made every second count.

This will be one of the stories in the life of an olive farmer in Italy…

Day 1

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This is not just another traffic jam.  Due to the overwhelming, unforeseen warmth received to this odd year in Central Italy, harvesting season had begun earlier than anticipated. Truck after truck, Fiat after Peugeot, farmers were hustling day and night to get their beans counted (olives actually).

But what’s more important were the quality of this years harvest. Beyond one’s reckoning anticipation.

0.04%.

If you remember, an olive oil yielding within 0.8% acidity is required in order to be labeled as “extra-virgin”.

0.04%

In plain language, this displays beyond fresh and beyond average “extra” virgin olive oil we would see back in any states.

zero . zero four %

*Be known, this does not calculate taste/flavor, but one aspect in telling quality, fresh, and the best; for more information on oleic acidity go to my other post here

New Harvest!

Aside

The trees are getting covered elegantly, farmers preparing their men, women, and children, tools sharpening, machines checked and double checked, schedules canceled and then rescheduled.  The glory for the annual anticipation of  their life is just moments away and yet they’ve been hungry and prepared for months.  Like the Spartans of Sparta, outnumbered yet precisely effective, and like David and Goliath, they know the perfect technique with little tools they are given.  Almost there, almost. Just a month wait, and the small fruit would be in its most unique form. Such the form we will soon be able to savor in our most favorite dish or simply just on another perfect roll. However we favor, which ever way we stunningly choose for its use, it shall be called a masterpiece. So get ready to use up the last drip of your old, aged, oil and prepare to line up or exhaust your search for a rare piece of the puzzle to complete your dining experience. Almost, just a month more.

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Amongst the big three (no not the basketball of the 80s or the present, nor is it the big players of the second World War, or do I know much of golf), there are other well established extra virgin olive oil producers in the world, but hardly not as qualitative or quantitative.  For this purpose, I will outright make the claim that the Greeks were the first to formally establish olive oil back back way back in times of the Minoan civilization.  And before Caesar made a name for Italian civilization, there were the Etruscans, the prehistoric Ancient Italian civilization not known to many, but the first to officially refine in the qualitative form to what Homer calls “liquid gold”.  As we (mostly restauranteurs and buyers) know, Spain has lush amount of land to cultivate more than Italy and Greece combined under a much more affordable price; basically the ability to mass produce.  If we examine these labels under another light (perhaps a bit biased and condescending) we could view Greeks as the Americans, in starting something, Italians as the Japanese, always perfecting that something, and Spaniards as the one to always mass produce under lower expense, which I will let you fill in a country of your choice. ;P

Now don’t be offended by my arrogant metaphor, but do understand the players in this war between superiority within quality and quantity.  Although Spain does have many quality oils (as do Greece), eventually it’s all about personal preference.  In my experience, Spanish oils has mostly been undercutting Italian imports just as Greece are as well.  As a matter of quality and techniques, they all vary just as there are rotten apples in every bunch.  As for Italians, there are those that are stupendous, and there are those that are inferior.  No matter where you choose, there will be a few obsolete brands.  And as of taste, they also vary.  There are absolutely no “better than” by country oils.  It’s simply just preference.