24th October 2010 The olive harvest in Italy is carried out in October and November and it is common knowledge that if you are invited to lunch by friends who have olive trees at this time of year, you will probably be roped in to help with the olive picking!
When I found out that my friend Jessica was in town to harvest her trees, I willingly volunteered to help, having never been involved in this very Tuscan autumn chore before.
Olives are hand-picked in this part of the world. You pull them off the branches and let them fall into a net spread under the tree. To get to the high branches, you need a rake, or a ladder, or good tree-climbing skills, (but Jessica fell out of one of her trees last year and narrowly missed seriously injuring herself - so beware!). When the tree is bare, the net is gathered up and the olives poured into baskets. To get oil, you have to go to a local frantoio (oil press).
Jessica's 90 olive trees are in Limoncino, in the hills behind Livorno, part of the Parco Provinciale dei Monti Livornesi. From the hillside you can glimpse the sea and the port of Livorno in the distance.
It has taken Jessica and Renzo, and occasional extra hands, a week to pick all the olives. They have already paid one visit to the oil press in Luciana where their 450 kg of precious fruits yielded about 60 kg of oil. They still have another trip to make on Tuesday. The frantoio charges about 16 cents per kilo of olives to create the delicious green oil.
Our small team today managed to finish picking Jessica's olives. Great fun, and very rewarding, especially when you taste the results!
Jessica, who used to live in Livorno, is now based in Sezze in the province of Latina (south of Rome).
Limoncino is currently in the local news because of plans to open a new waste dump for industrial waste, right there, in this area of natural park.
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