It’s October and excitement is rising – how will the harvest turn out – especially this year in Montisi! Will there be any to pick following months of drought and soaring temperatures? And last year was a poor harvest too due to the olive fly!
At Poggio Secco I wish it was that simple. With any other crop pollination there is a small window and any late frost or early hail can severely damage the potential crop. We have two 300 year old trees and they both regularly harvest close to 80kg a tree, while others can crop none. From our 175 trees we would expect to pick 800-1,000kg and bear in mind that the oil is some 15% of the weight of olives! So, what’s a poor year? Last year – only 80kg!!
The excitement and pleasure is in harvesting the olives by hand with your family and friends. It’s such a treat to spend days in the olive grove picking. Much banter and discussion ranging from olives, to food, to politics, to family. It’s hard work as the olives are collected in nets which need careful setting. Most trees are on slopes and huge nets need to be set to catch and collect the olives as they fall. Our trees (and most of those around Montisi) are picked by hand! Carting all the nets, ladders and crates around the olive groves is itself a tiring task – include the picking and each day ends with being tired but very content!
The olives need to be pressed fairly soon after picking and as such we are all dependant on the olive presses – frantoio – opening, usually for 2 weeks at the end of October, beginning of November. Each farmer’s harvest is batch processed – your olives in – your oil out!! We usually take 3-4 days to harvest and then off to the frantoio where the olives are weighed, batch processed – beginning with removing leaves/twigs – then washed and finally pressed. The whole process takes 2-3 hours after which you collect your oil. Our frantoio in Montisi usually runs until midnight and we have often collected ours at 10pm!
The fresh oil is amazing and so different to anything you buy in shops. For a start its lime green and cloudy and the taste is so much stronger with either a peppery or floral flavour depending on the year.
To harvest, to press and finally taste the oil is the highlight of our year in Montisi.
Do come and visit our olive oil festival in Montisi which runs from 28th October to November 1st 2017.
Charles and Mandy