This time of year it's the annual olive harvest. We are blessed here at LaVanta to be surrounded by hundreds of gnarly old olive trees - they are in the gardens, in the communal areas and all over our land. Our development has been carefully planned to protect all of the olive trees as we build.
But as Autumn advances the trees are heavily laden with their green, purple and black fruits and its time to start picking them so that we have a ready supply of olive oil and olives for eating. Before I came out here, I had given little thought to how these things happen - I mean you just go and buy a bottle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil from the supermarket don't you?
But over here, olives and olive picking are a part of the fabric of life! Everyone knows how to pick them, how to process them and how to get the very best out of them. Olives are a staple of every meal and it's a joy to see young children savoring olives - I know it was a taste I only acquired much later in life!
So what do you need to pick olives - not a lot really. Its a simple process. Nets or plastic to spread under the tree to catch the olives, a ladder, a stick to hit the branches and of course lots of containers to put the harvest into. Simple - but back-breaking work. I lasted for about an hour and I'm a lot younger than many of the people you see spending day after day picking the olives. But whilst it is hard work it tends to be a highly sociable event with generations of the same family gossiping before breaking off to enjoy a huge lunch
Our gardener Osman is the man of the moment here at LaVanta and he and his wife are largely responsible for harvesting the annual crop. Unfortunately the harvest comes at a time when the weather can be changeable. Ideally they need to be picked before the high winds pick up (like today) when the wind blows all of the ripe fruits off the trees. But often as I drive into town I will see people dotted around the hillsides in blisteringly cold rain, bundled up against the wind climbing their rickety ladders to pick just a few more. We have been lucky and we had a good run of dry days to get all the olives in!! As they are picked Osman's wife is automatically grading them to decide which are best for eating and which will make the best oil. Our harvest is done for this year, so we now have to wait to see the fruits of their labour and hopefully there will be enough oil for our owners to share when they come out next Summer
It certainly makes me think a lot more when I go to dip my bread into a lovely olive oil or have a bowl of olives as part of my mezzo. And just for the record, whilst everyone waxes lyrical about Greek, Italian or Spanish olive oil - I think its because those in the know still haven't discovered Turkish olive oil