My proprietor has trees scattered about the property as well as trees on nearby land. She harvests from land owned by others in exchange for some of the final product. In all, she picks anywhere from 1 to 4 tons each year yielding about 200 liters per ton.
While there is only one harvest per year, the work involved in the few weeks of picking is long and arduous. Nets are laid on the ground under the trees and pickers use small, plastic rakes to gently pull the fruit from the trees. Some people hang a wicker basket from their necks and pick by hand, wandering through the groves, dropping the olives into their basket. For a few hours in is peaceful, social and the quintessential Provencal experience.
AS you can imagine, olive trees are as commonplace as grape vines around here. Some are well tended, pruned impeccably, standing on neatly terraced land. Others grow a bit more wild. All are heavy with fruit by early January. All at once, it seems people are out picking in hoards. Large groups of family and friends gather to try to pick their grove in a day or two. Then, it is done. Each town has a cooperative where one can take their olives for pressing into the village blend. Others have their own pressed and bottled independently.
The day of pressing, the oil is cloudy, grassy and sharp- the way I like it. Over time, it transforms into a mellower flavor. I bought a bottle of the Entrcasteaux oil, and it too, was very tasty. This stuff is not cheap-not even here, in the middle of olive country. Now I know why- it is a labor of love and deserving of the compensation.
|Everyone gets in on the action.|
|Mme. P (for Proprietor)|
|Youngest Child mostly practiced his climbing skills.|
|Every extra raker helps.|
|part of a days harvest.|
|The nets are gathered and pouring into the crates to be sorted and taken to the mill.|
|They go through this homemade contraption to pull out leaves, sticks and other undesirables.|