Thursday, October 07, 2010

Olive Harvest

Harvest season has different flavours, textures, aromas and colours from place to place depending on what crops can be grown there. While here in North America fall harvest is all about corn and pumpkins and yams - in the Mediterranean region, fall surrounds the central event of olive harvest, similarly to how in late spring is all about the wheat harvest. These two cycles are connected all to the rain, which make all events very time-sensitive and a bit stressful for the farmers and their families. Especially when considering how precious rain is in the area. We spend the year in anticipation for the rain and the first rain is a major event!

Wheat fields are sowed before the first rain, so that they can get as much rainfall as possible and sprout. Olives are harvested right after the first rain, so that the summer's dust is washed off the olives' skins. And the olives must be picked before too much more rain arrives, so that they don't become all soggy or rot - this will not produce a very good oil!

So for me, growing up in the Western Galilee, fall harvest is identified with the scent of olives. And this is not the olives you are familiar with from the jars or cans or on top of your pizza. These are fresh olives before they get pickled in brine or salt. Their aroma is not as pungent as some other fruit could be; and it only will release itself if the fruit is bruised. But you can rest assured that by the end of a day spent picking olives, your hands will smell like olives - green, oily, waxy - and will taste awfully bitter!

olive harvesting in tuscany, originally uploaded by

This is how olives are harvested in Tuscany - and it's pretty much the same way it's done elsewhere, although some like to beat around the trees (pun intended) with sticks. It's not really effective and a lot of leaves fall to the ground, and a lot of olives just stay on the tree... And as you can see in this photo - the ground is covered with fine sprouts of wild grasses and weeds of all sorts that just woke up from the first rain... Harvesting olives may be tedious, and is like a race against the next rain, but you are sure to spend the days in the fresh air, enjoying the kisses from the gentler autumn sun, and socializing with family and neighbours that all work towards the same goal: pressing the finest olive oil possible for that year, and perhaps also producing a few jars of pickled olives while they're at it.

I'd be curious what are your association with "harvest" wherever in the world you are or grew up in.

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At October 09, 2010 1:34 PM, Blogger Isa said...

My association with harvest is the same as yours: picking olives!
I live in the SouthEast of Spain and here there are thousands of olive trees too, and olive oil is the bassis of our diet. Here we can't live without it :)
Grapes are harvested in autumn too. This time of the year we start eating grapes, which are so traditional in New Year's Eve (we have to eat twelve while the clock strucks 12!).

At October 09, 2010 1:42 PM, Blogger Ayala Moriel said...

It would be nice if you post a comment relevant to this topic to begin with :-)
For requests like that, please email me rather than leave irrelevant comments.

At October 09, 2010 1:44 PM, Blogger Ayala Moriel said...


Thanks so much for sharing the olive harvest passion. I cannot live without olives either! :-)
Your custom of eating 12 grapes in New Year's is so fascinating!
But I'm surprised you will still have grapes that late in the year? It's very late harvest...

At October 12, 2010 3:15 AM, Blogger Isa said...

Hi again, Ayala!

We do have grapes in Christmas time, yes :) Big green grapes Vinalopo variety. The custom of eating twelve in New Year's Eve is something that all Spanish do since XIX century.


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