Thursday, November 12, 2009
It is the time of year to harvest olives for our wonderful golden oil. The air is chilly, the sun bright. The Mistral wind never fails to blow for at least a week of the harvest -- just to keep you on your toes, and to bring frostbite to your finger tips -- full gloves being useless for an activity demanding dexterous digits.
Depending on the varieties planted in your orchard, or oliveraie the picking begins early November, or early December. Isabelle and Paul Pierre's orchard is filled with Verdale, and Grossane olives. As such, they pick a section early, and another portion later in the season. Teams of friends come to stay with them in their large transformed stone mill for the harvest and together with their two or three nets, a comb per person, their red aerated crates and traditional triangular ladders, they go from tree to tree stripping it of its plump fruit.
The trees are never very tall here. They are pruned in an open parasol shape. And the olives are always picked by hand, not shaken from the trees.
Surprisingly, the scent in the air is that of honey from the bed of white flowers covering the orchard, with an occasional whiff of wild mint and oregano. These scents waft up, warm the soul, tickle the palate and confuse the senses. Happily a hot lunch awaits the workers at noon.
There are over a thousand trees to pick, with varying quantities of fruit on each depending on its exposure to the sun and wind of the season. When I've clients here during this season we always go picking at one of my friend's orchards, be it with Sophie our beekeeper, or over at JP's vineyard, or here with Isabelle and Paul Pierre. It is a local past-time this time of the year, whether you've two trees or over a thousand.
From the farm there will be daily trips to the organic mill up in the hills above Mouriès to bring the day's harvest, fresh. The mill is truly a small structure lost amidst the limestone hills jutting above and around, down a long and much pitted dirt road. You have to be committed to your oil to come this far.
But they are. The trees are all treated organically, and even though recently a product to treat the flies which attack the trees has been officially deemed permissable in organic oliculture, they hesitate to use it, feeling it is an industry decision, not one that is truly safe and considered.
And soon, the fresh oil will be there to drizzle over pasta and bread, baked fish and steamed vegetables...yummmmm