Saturday, 23 March 2013


Our first harvest

Well what we knew about olives could have gone on a micro-dot - a postage stamp would be too big! We like to eat them, we like to use the oil but we weren't honestly too keen on the local variety Taggiasca. The oil had no taste and was just flimsy.

We thought we would have a bash at at least getting some oil out of our trees this first year so we knew a little more and had a bench mark to compare other years to. We bought a strimmer. This was pretty vital as without using it you couldn't see the huge boulders and ankle-breaking stones on our broken down terraces. We bought a few nets and a friend lent us some old ones. We bought some sacks and some crates and some oil containers. There were already big sticks on the farm so off we went.

First discovery is that olives are actually fairly firmly attached to the trees. Second discovery is that whacking the tree with a stick requires a lot more technique that it would first seem. The obvious fact was also that he trees had not been trimmed in twenty or more years and so we just couldn't reach the tops of them to get to the olives. Oh well, this was our first year so we weren't aiming for perfection, just the experience of it and the taste of our own oil. 

After nearly a week (it rained during our mini harvest) we finally had as much as we were going to be able to gather without the remainder spoiling so we were ready for the mill. We had done the sum total of nine treees out of two hundred. Don't laugh! The mill owner certainly didn't when we turned up with our titchy quintale (100kg) of olives. She almost said she couldn't press them as there wasn't enough. She eventually did it and we had to pay a little extra. It was worth it. When we picked up our containers with eighteen litres of our own bright green olive oil we were ecstatic. Now for the taste test.

All I can say is we must have been buying engine oil or lamp oil labelled as Taggiasca. The first taste of our oil was a shock. It was peppery and spicy an hit the back of the throat. What on earth was that greasy insipid stuff we had tasted before? You didn't so much drink our oil as eat it. It is so flavoursome and hearty. We were hooked! It was stunningly delicious and seemed to go with everything. We now know that is the secret of the Taggiasca oil. It suits every type of dish. I now also know that good olive oil should hit you in the throat, especially when it is first pressed. It mellows with age a bit and changes colour from a scary bright, almost luminous green to a straw yellow now four months on.

I am now a convert. I would even go so far as to call myself an evangelical convert. I find myself reading everything I can get my hands on about olives, oil and milling. We have attended tree-cutting courses and next year I plan to do an olive oil tasting course to become a qualified taster. 

If this blog does one thing I hope it will spread the message that the majority of what you buy in supermarkets is that same insipid greasy muck I first tasted. Sometimes it is even coloured to make it look more authentic. If you want good oil, buy it from the producer. There are pelnty of us out there. If you want to know more about good oil and the misleading labelling in the olive oil industry I strongly recommend this book: Extra Virginity - The sublime and scandolous world of olive oil.

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