Raccolta delle olive

In November 2018 we returned to Casa Zefferino to harvest our olives – the first time in three years we’d had anything approaching a decent crop.

Over the years we’ve had the house, and for a few preceding this, the olive trees had grown wildly out of control. As well as being choked by ivy, rather than being slow growing, as we’d expected, the branches extended well out of reach without specialist equipment.

With only small plastic rakes, and borrowed nets, we set to work scraping as much of the fruit as we could manage from the branches. If anything, we’d left it a little late in the season and some of the olives appeared to have shrivelled a little (we later found out that this is of no consequence for the oil). Working with our friends Marc and Stella, proprietors of Il Bacio del Lupo, we quickly worked our way around the garden, stripping as many trees as we could and gathering the fallen fruit from the nets as best we could.

After a few hours (and a couple of glasses of wine) we began to see the product of our labours: the baskets (also borrowed) were starting to fill, and we resorted to alternative containers – recycling bins, wine boxes – to accommodate the rest.

Sadly we hadn’t allowed sufficient time to both harvest, and press, the fruit and we left the latter part of the process in Marc’s capable hands.

It was only on our return to Cecanibbi at Christmas when we finally able to taste the fruit of our labours. The fresh oil was green in colour, and peppery to taste; too “wet” to use for cooking, but perfect for salads or drizzled on fresh bread with a sprinkling rock salt.

Over time the remaining oil has matured to a more familiar golden colour, more refined in taste but still delicious. We are unlikely to be able to repeat the harvest soon, however: in early 2019 we had the trees cut back in an attempt to reverse the years of neglect, and as a result we don’t expect a similar bounty until at least next year.