Harvesting and collecting olives can be done in a great many ways. Some farmers use machinery, others prefer sticks and nets, and others still prefer to climb the trees and pick the olives by hand.
In our part of Puglia the old contardini swears by the scopetta. With an old organic broom they sweep a circle around every single olive tree making the red earth hard, smooth and clean, so that olives can easily be gathered, when they are ripe and ready to fall off the tree.
A healthy tree in its prime of 300-600 years will give 10-15 litres of pure olive oil depending on the season’s weather and which farmer you ask, and with a ratio of one pugliesi to 15 olive trees lean harvest techniques are really necessary.
Most of the olives are taken directly to the frantoia, olive mill, where they are pressed to oil, but certain types can be cured and eaten as snacks. This is, however, not as easy as it sounds. Fresh olives taste downright horrible and preservation requires skill and experience.
The fruit of our 23 olive trees is therefore used exclusively for oil, and with an average yield of 50 oil litres a year I am satisfied to see it as a nice clean sweep – thanks to the hard work and help of the scopetta.
See how the olives are gathered here or visit La Cucina Italiana for a guide to the various types of Italian olive oil.
More on collecting olives and other kinds of produce