Autumn is a period of harvests. At the end of August/beginning, September starts the grape harvest. And in October starts olives harvest. In Liguria as in whole Italy, olive oil is very important. The whole process of production of the olive oil is very fascinating. Below I describe the olives harvest and the production of oil.
Types of oils in Liguria
Liguria is divided into 3 zones where grow 3 different types of olives from which are obtain 3 different types of oil:
Olio di Riviera dei Fiori (oil from Western Ligurian Riviera) the most frequent olives in that part of Liguria are olive taggasche. It is about 90 % of this type of olives that is used to produce the oil from that part of Liguria.
Olio del Ponente Savonese (oil from the western part of the province of Savona) the olives are produced in the central/western part of Liguria. The oil from that part of the region in 50% is obtained from olive taggasche.
Olio di Levante (oil from Eastern part of Liguria) and it is obtained from the mix of different, local types of olives like lavagnina, razzola, pignola and frantoio.
When does the olive harvest start?
In the past it started in December or January (!!!) It started when the olives were ripe (when they were black). Nowadays, the harvest starts at the end of September/beginning October and lasts until the end of November. It lasts so long because the olives that grow close to the sea start ripen before the olives that grow in the mountains. In any case, the olives that are picked nowadays are not ripe yet (!!!) Why? Below the answer …
Olive fruit fly (Bactrocera oleae)
This is the answer. It is also the biggest enemy of the olive trees. A small fly that lays its eggs inside the olives fruits. The high season of this fly starts at the beginning of autumn. That’s why nowadays, the farmers start the harvest before the olive trees are attacked by the flies. In the past, the oil was produced also from the infected olives. However, the infected olives give less oil and of the lower quality. What is more, the oil obtained from infected olives has a high acidity level and a lower shelf life.
How works the olive harvest?
At first, weather forecasts must be checked (it can’t rain). Then the fruits have to be checked … if they are ready to be picked (yes, they are picked when they are still unripe … but they are ripe enough … I don’t know how it works 😉 … it is the farmers secret 😉 ) In any case the owners know when comes the RIGHT day. Then, they cut the grass under the trees (because the olives fall down from the trees and it ‘d be very difficult to find them through the high grass).
Then the nets are spread on the ground. They are necessary to pick up the olives from the ground. The method is to use an electric tool, that has large tongs that spin around quickly, removing fruits from the trees. When all olives are on the ground they are cropped together with the nets and put in the baskets. After that, they are transported to FRANTOIO where the oil is squeezed from the olives.
Frantoio (Olive Oil Mill)
The olive oil mill where I’ve been is located in Leivi, province Genova. It is called Frantoio Oleario Solari Mauro and serves the farmers from whole central Levante Ligure. When harvest time starts the farmers bring all their olives there.
The olives are weighted, washed and then squeezed in the special machines. After about one hour the brand new olive oil is ready! You can also buy it there because the owners of frantoio produce and sell their olive oil. It cost 8€/½ litre and it is delicious !!!
You should try the local olive oil because it is one of the most characteristic products of Liguria … and it is really fantastic 🙂