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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