Autumn in Italy! Grape harvest and wine making, olive gathering, and oil pressing. Ah, this is autumn in Italy! And right in our own garden, at that! Mario harvests our olives — the time-honored way. Hand-picked, one-by-one. He probably wouldn’t want to try it with a hundred trees, but with our two it’s not too bad.
Two traditional olive-picking methods exist.
- Either combing them off the branches with a special comb. And letting them fall into nets spread on the ground.
- Or hand-picking, then dropping them into a basket tied around the waist.
- Learn more here.
The olive comb, or rake, is usually plastic so it won’t harm or bruise the olives. And on a long handle for easy removal from the ground.
But for our two trees, hand picking works fine. And we get enough olives to last the year, and to give away! Which, around Christmas-time, will be ready to sample! For you have to cure olives before eating them. Freshly picked olives are much too bitter to eat.
Our olives are known as the black and white variety which, in reality, is purple and green. They’re quite small, and really better for oil olive than for eating.
But with proper curing, and patience, we get a pretty nice olive, 100% organic!
- We wash the ripe, firm olives, letting them dry a bit.
- Then put them in jars or kegs. And cover them with salt water, about a 50/50 solution.
- Just how much salt? Well, first we put a raw egg in the water. Then add sea salt until it starts to float, and cover them.
- Then we let them season. Usually for a month or two.
- Next we seal the jars, no canning process necessary, as the salt preserves them.
- Sometimes we add seasonings. Things like lemon or orange peel, garlic or onions, and oregano.
- And once they’re ready, how we enjoy them!
But there are many recipes around for curing olives. Like this one from Sicily that I’d like to try!
Hand-picking olives sounds like a lot of work. But you know, it’s really quite special!
Images | olive harvest by Matteo X from Flickr; CC-BY-2.0 | All others are my own.