I promised to update you on this year’s olive harvest.
If you read my earlier blog — Time to Harvest the Olives — you’ll know that I have 12 olive trees on the roof of my house.
Each tree is a different variety; some are table olives and some are used for oil. The sun dissolved the paper tags long ago, so we can no longer identify which is which.
We carefully fertilized each tree last spring. And I diligently watered them every night during the long scorching Mediterranean summer. By Fall every single tree was heavy with fruit. We decided to get them pressed for oil.
Actually, allow me to backtrack a month or two…
There was a festival in this village at the beginning of September to celebrate the upcoming olive harvest. The town — Zejtun — takes its name from the Sicilian Arabic word for olive. There aren’t a lot of olives grown here anymore, but the memory of these traditions is strong.
On the main night of the festival the streets were jammed with strolling people, and many old buildings had opened their doors to visitors. One, run by the local historical society, had a small display of information and artifacts about a Roman villa that’s currently being excavated just down the street from me. The curator of the exhibit showed us around and explained the history of the villa.
We were examining some shards of jars which had once held oil, and he mentioned that his brother was giving out samples of olive oil for the festival. Talked turned to growing and harvesting olives, and I asked him if he knew of anyone in the area with a press.
As luck would have it, a farmer in a nearby village hires out his press each year to process the olives from other farms and small gardens.
A month or so later, we picked the entire crop by hand, working about 2 hours a day for 4 or 5 days. I didn’t know you could just claw the fruit off the tree with a rake-like tool and gather them up from a groundsheet.
I was in Barbados for work the following week, but my wife searched out the farm and brought in our modest harvest. We were able to get two small jars of oil. Not much compared to what these farmers are growing. But a nice addition to the table — grown ourselves, patiently cared for by me over the past year — and it doesn’t come any fresher!
Here are a few photos of the olive pressing operation. These are olives picked by farmers in the region. But the jar at the bottom is my oil, from my trees.
“Olives have oiled the wheels of civilization since Jericho built walls and ancient Greece was the morning news. From the first Egyptians, they have symbolized everything happy and holy in the Mediterranean.” — Mort Rosenblum, Olives: The Life & Lore of a Noble Fruit.
It really doesn’t get much better than that.