The Olive Harvest in Salento

Who hasn’t dreamed of leaving it all behind and becoming a farmer? Well, anyway, I have and fortunately on occasion I have a chance to pretend.

In late December I was down in Salento again, Muro Leccese to be exact, where I took part in the olive harvest. The olive oil aficionados out there will have immediately noted that this is a very late harvest and indeed the oil that gets produced from these olives is a bit rough around the edges. It’ll be extra virgin, it’ll be good, but it’ll have a very strong, almost overpowering flavor that is a far cry from the refined stuff you get when you pick the olives by hand or shake the trees and gather the olives right away. These olives getting harvested have been on the ground for days, in some cases several weeks.

The six photos below show how the process is done: 1) olives sitting there waiting patiently to be picked up, 2) small tractor does the deed, 3&4) tractor dumps all that it picked up into a machine that separates the olives from the leaves and stones, 5) the olives get dumped into a truck, 6) getting ready to start over again. This video brings it all to life thanks to the overpowering sound of the tractor (sorry about that).

Granted I’m a little bit batty for olive trees, but I’d challenge anybody to take part in an olive harvest and not be absolutely head-over-heels for the oil that results from their labors. The majestic nature of the olive tree and its fruit is all the more remarkable when you have had this experience.

For a look at the process of how more refined extra virgin olive oils are made, this video from Puglia is a great primer (the shaking of the tree is not supposed to be great for them, but the resulting oil is certainly better than waiting for the olives to fall to the ground).

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