13 November 2009

La Raccolta ("The Harvest")

Ho trovato lavoro in Italia. ("I found work in Italy.")

It is olive season in Toscana, and one can find sagre delle olive ("olive festivals") in most towns and villages.  Tomorrow we will go to Lucca for one such festival.  Olives are one of the oldest fruits known to man, and nowadays the benefits of a diet including and cooking with unsaturated fats are well known.  The fruit and the oil are used worldwide.  I enjoy the fruit cured in various ways as well as the cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to participate in the olive harvest.  I joke about coming to Italy to be an immigrant laborer in the vineyards and olive groves.  Harvesting gave me a new appreciation for the process involved before the olive and its oil end up at the table of the end-user.

We took a bus in the morning through the Strada in Chianti to a hilltop town named Panzano.  With each turn in the road, I saw a watercolor waiting to be painted.  We were greeted by the beautiful woman that runs the small winery where we were to work.  Four of us and one five-month old baby made up our team. 

It is a small grove of l’ulivi ("olive trees"), only 118 trees.  We raked the olives off the branches onto the rete ("net") on the ground.  We would then pull out any twigs that came with the olives, and then into the cassetta ("box") the olives would go.  Moving our net to abbraccia ("hug") another cluster of trees, we would repeat the process again and again throughout the day.  The women were chiacchierando ("chitchatting, chattering") all day long while Mirko (the only man amongst us) was praying for silence, I’m sure.  We were treated to lunch at the infamous Antico Macelleria Cecchini where the atmosphere was unique and the food was Slow, healthful, simple, elegant, and delicious.

By the end of the day, I admit to being tired.  We filled seven cassette ("boxes") of olives weighing at least 50 pounds each.  It was not difficult work, only somewhat physical.  To work in the fields in the Chianti hills with gorgeous views in every direction, honestly, is work I felt guilty being paid to do.  A satisfying day in every way.

Next week we return to take the olives to the frantoio ("olive press") to be pressed into oil.

-- Josslyn 'Giosalina'
Panzano in Chianti, Tuscany, Italy

1 comment:

  1. Hard work but very rewarding. Will the oil be one of those with the DOC label