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Olive harvest in Le Marche, Italy

Written by Maxie G.

An article about the 2022 olive harvest in Le Marche

Nestled between the much better-known Emilia-Romagna in the north, Umbria in the west and Abruzzo in the south lie the Marche region. Together, these regions of central Italy form the breadbasket of the country.

Lured by "real, unadulterated Italy" and the prospect of being able to take part in the olive harvest ourselves, my partner and I made our way to Colmurano, a picturesque medieval town, last October as part of our trip to Europe. A small biodynamic farm nearby had invited us to the harvest.

When we arrived, the ripe olive fruits were glistening aubergine-coloured in the autumn sun. The farm is dreamily situated on a hill and offers a fantastic view of rolling hills with cypress trees, small forests, long fields of grain and olive trees as far as the eye can see. The regional capital of Ancona, known for its ferry connections to Greece and Croatia, can be seen on the horizon.

However, the fact that "our trees" are on a steep slope and that we are facing a difficult and arduous harvest quickly brings us back from our reverie. But we don't let that put us off!

The first thing to do is to spread out the nets, check for holes and mend them. In order not to lose the precious olives and to catch them gently, nets are laid out around the trees.

Repairing the nets for the olive harvestRepairing/mending the nets for the olive harvest

But Jupiter does not mean well with us. As soon as the preparations are finished, the weather changes and it pours with rain. For two long weeks, we looked anxiously out of the windows and hoped every day for a dry spell. Because in order to avoid bacterial infestation of the trees and mould on the olives, we can only harvest when it is dry.

Just when we hardly thought it was possible, we were offered a dry window of several days. Finally the time has come: sunshine ahead and we get started! The three of us set to work, laying out the freshly mended nets between the trees, overlapping them tightly and fixing some of them directly to the trees due to the steep slope.

Laying out the nets for the olive harvestLaying out the nets for the olive harvest

Due to the extreme slope and to ensure that the harvest is as gentle as possible, the only technical aid we have is an electric "olive shaker" called a "vibroli". This pneumatic comb brushes the oval fruit off the tree in short vibrations. While one person operates the vibroli, the other two carefully empty the contents of the nets into the olive crates and move the nets.

In three sporty days, from sunrise to sunset, or as the farmer says "until you can't see any more olives", we go through the harvest. Enough for a first pressing. The most important thing is to get the olives to the mill as quickly as possible to avoid over-oxidisation and preserve their freshness.

Ripe olives for pressingRipe olives for pressing

The first olive oil - what a pleasure: fruity, grassy, the typical sharpness in the throat. However, our total yield was only 90 litres instead of the usual 150 - 200 litres. An extended period of drought, with record temperatures of up to 50 degrees and no rainfall, had ruined the prospect of a good harvest. As a result, the trees bore less fruit and the olives were also smaller due to the lack of water.

Olive trees do not always bear fully, often only every two years to give themselves a break. The prolonged dry spell this year has severely affected the harvest not only in Italy, but also in the entire Mediterranean region. The abundance of rain now is a very welcome turn of events in this respect, in the hope that nature will soak itself full in order to be best prepared for the next season and the next drought.

After an exhausting week, we toast happily to the end of the harvest. Rich in memories and experiences, knowing how much work goes into every drop of green gold.

An article about the 2022 olive harvest in Le Marche - written by Maxi G.