The Olive Harvest in Italy

I’ve learnt a new Italian word :frantoio. It means not only the millstones used to crush the olives, but the place where they make olive oil.

In the picturesque village of Valnogaredo in the Euganean Hills there’s a 17th century villa, and in what was once the barchessa there is now a family owned olive oil mill, small, but producing oil of excellent quality. I arrived to talk to Paolo, the owner, and learned a great deal in one short hour.

I was surprised that both green and black olives are crushed together rather than separated. In fact, some varieties produce both colours on the same tree. The olives are gathered after a machine has gently shaken the tree so that they fall on a ground sheet, and are processed within 24 hours.

An oil which is designated as extra virgin has to meet specific criteria including acidity, flavours and oxygenation. I thought it had to do with a first or second pressing, but no.

This year’s harvest has been poor because of the spring weather, so the ancient granite millstones are not in use this time, and the oil is being extracted by centrifugal force. It emerges from the machines in a steady stream of golden green, and tastes fantastic when it is newly produced, as I’ve described in a longer piece I’ve written for Italy Magazine.

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2 Responses to The Olive Harvest in Italy

  1. Barbara says:

    Hi Myra,
    The millstones are called macine, only the mill is the frantoio. All olives start off green and gradually ripen to black. The ripening process is called the invaiatura. Each producer (artisan producers, of course, not the industrial variety) decides when to mill the olives depending on several factors. My dearly beloved produces organic olive oil in Lazio. He usually harvests the olives in late October but this isn’t a good year so he’s waiting for about ten days. Milling the olives when they are green or slightly ripened produces less oil but of finer quality. Years ago small farmers milled their olives in December or even after the New Year when the olives were black and produced more oil, which is what poor families were interested in, i.e. to have enough oil for the year. Very few good mills use millstones and the old presses any more because the technology of the all-in-one presses has improved dramatically over the past decade and these new mills no longer over-heat the oil during the production process.
    Love your posts and your book!
    Barbara
    Rome

  2. Myra says:

    Thank you, Barbara. I bow to your superior knowledge! My article explains in more detail and doesn’t have the generalisations you find in the blog. I’ll check with you in future if I feel the need to write anything about olive oil.

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