Olive Harvest…

olives

This year has seen a bumper olive harvest. The trees were laden with so many olives that sometimes they looked like bunches of grapes. To those of you who have never picked olives and imagine it’s living the dream – it’s not. But having said that, the first two weeks, with help from friends, the sun shining and the trees of a reasonable height then yes, it is magical. But it’s not so great by the time you get into week four.  The friends have gone home and you’re left with a hardened core of pickers. The weather has cooled as much as the enthusiasm, only the big trees are left to pick and each one taking up to two and a half hours with four people picking. One tree yielded 140 kilos…Amazing. Not as much as this one though – largest olive tree in Italy . The Man thought there was a bigger one in Sicily, but I can’t find that. If you know about it please tell us.

14boxes

14 ten kilo boxes from one tree!

Don’t ever ask The Man to cut your hair – if the way he prunes an olive tree is anything to go by then you would be lucky to be left with a strand or two.

From the lips of the local farmers, there’s a great deal of advice about planting, pruning, picking and pressing olives. It’s always contradictory advice too, one man telling you one thing and his friend/wife disagreeing. We’ve listened to it all, The Man and I. We’ve read books and researched the Internet, basically you end up doing your own thing and for us that can’t have been bad because – friends and family, we’ve picked tons of olives (3 tons in fact) and consequently many litres of oil this year. It is certainly worth the hard work.  I have never tasted any oil so delicious as the freshly pressed virgin oil from the newly picked organic olives. We’re not registered organic but the trees are not treated in anyway. They grow and flourish, only by drawing nourishment from the rain and sun… and a bit of love of course.

Before I came to Italy I had no idea that olive oil could be so good. It’s labour intensive to harvest and as The Man always points out, when you buy olive oil from the supermarkets for under €10 a litre then it cannot be good stuff.  There has been much controversy in the press about big oil companies cheating and mixing the oil but I don’t know enough to go into all that here.  All I know for certain is that our olive oil is wonderful.

oliveoil

Fresh green beautiful oil….

Olivespastavino will be going to England in the New Year so if you’re good to me and I bump into you, then maybe you’ll get a drop or two.

coffeetime

Coffee time in le Marche sunshine in November !

By the way, there’s a great deal of talking goes on around each tree during picking and I’m tempted to make notes or record the conversations because they are so diverse. Subjects range from basic recipes, shopping, best and worst restaurants, expats you love or hate, religion, politics, healthcare in Italy v other countries, tax systems… I could go on forever and so did some of the discussions. I’ve taken to sitting on a box while I lovingly strip the olives from the branches either with a rake or my gloved hands listening with interest to those declaiming and joining in as and when I can – I’m not so good in the sport category but streets ahead in the useless bits of information section.

 

olivespastavinopicking

Stripping the cut branches of their olives. I’m standing up, but only for the photo.

Summer’s Arrived in Le Marche

Beautiful Rose (Peace)

Beautiful Rose (Peace)

The roses are blooming the grass is growing faster than we can cut it. Summer has definitely arrived in Le Marche. It did have to be dragged out of hiding this year though, April and the beginning of May were very changeable. The kind of weather where you have to prepare for anything and everything before you go out for the day, taking with you, raincoat, umbrella, wellies, cardigan, T-shirt, sandals, suncream and sunhat. Get the idea?

Last week I mentioned the growth in the orto (vegetable garden) and it hasn’t slowed down. Today we’re going to pick most of the peas and broad beans, although the beans don’t look too healthy, some of them have black leaves and inside the pods is a sticky black substance…anyone enlighten me?

Peas...as if you didn't know

Peas…as if you didn’t know

In 2012 the apricots were prolific but, this year, two of the trees appear to be yielding nothing and the other tree just a few. I managed to make over thirty pots of chutney and several jars of jam last summer but this year there will be very few. Pity I gave so many away. Looks like there’s only one of each left in the larder.

One Jar Apricot Chutney One Jar Apricot Jam

One Jar Apricot Chutney
One Jar Apricot Jam

The cherries are looking good though so we’ll be harvesting them this afternoon too before the birds get them. So cherry jam will be on the boil later this evening. Such a fag taking out all those stones though.

cherries2

 

cherries1

 

May is a very beautiful time here, it’s warm enough to eat breakfast outside on the terrace but not so hot during the day to be unbearable. The mosquitoes are still sleeping so we don’t have to cover ourselves in deet. The evenings are drawing out and only goes a little chilly after the sun has completely gone, which, at the moment is around 20.45.

redrose

If you fancy trying out Le Marche there are some lovely places to visit and to stay. You could check out this link Marcheholidayaparts.com. If you decide to try them then mention olivespastavino blog when you book, you will be sure to get a favourable rate!

The Bougainvillea has survived the winter and is blooming!

The Bougainvillea has survived the winter and is blooming!

From Garden to Plate…is it worth it?

Delish...Fresh Tuna Salad...oh with a little bit of fresh Wild Rocket

Delish…Fresh Tuna Salad…oh with a little bit of fresh Wild Rocket

One week back in Italy after three weeks in Brooklyn NYC and I’m just about over the jetlag. However, it wasn’t just my sleep pattern that was affected; it was eating, drinking and bodily functions that all went skew-whiff! Back on track now you’ll be pleased to know.

The result of three weeks absence meant that the orto (vegetable garden) had gone completely bonkers. Whilst away, the weather here in Italy had been sunny, warm and interspersed with lots of rain. Heaven for plants. It was impossible to see the paths separating the beds or to sort the weeds from the growing vegetables and I actually thought in one area that I must have cultivated some strain of triffid. Fortunately not.

My husband played hunt the strawberries and kindly cleared the bed of all but the said strawberries which, now having been shown the light, will hopefully plump up and ripen before June.

I tried, (honestly) to weed some of the beds but ended up just picking peas, fava beans (broad beans) and a lettuce for lunch. I know, I should have done more but it really is hard work and I don’t think I’m dedicated enough. I mean, it’s fantastic to pick something from the garden, carry it into the house, prepare and eat it all within half an hour. But, honestly, the work that you have to put in to get to the harvesting stage is possibly not my bag. I have friends who are devoted to their vegetable gardens, (and I do admire them) up at the crack of dawn, which here means 05.30am or it’s too hot, then toiling for three hours or more, virtually every day. Then you have to set up the irrigation system, the plants need water morning and night here in Italy from June/July through to October. Last year was so hot that even with watering the poor little veggies needed umbrellas to keep the sun off during the day or they dehydrated within minutes.

Fresh Picked, Lettuce, Peas and Beans

Fresh Picked, Lettuce, Peas and Beans

So I ask myself, is it better to just go to the market and buy fresh local produce or should I continue to try, against all the odds, to plod on with ‘grow your own’ method? The peas and beans were planted in November, as were the lettuce and they have all come through beautifully, from now on though, it’s all downhill.

Final thought. Who remembers shelling peas with their mum when they were a kid? I do and today I was reminded of that. It took me twenty minutes to shell a small bowlful of peas. They were delicious, but were they better than the frozen? The vote in this household is yes! But he would say that, he didn’t shell the peas nor did he pick them!

The Little Bowl of Peas from the Bundle of Shells.

The Little Bowl of Peas from the Bundle of Shells.