It’s harvest time in Abruzzo. First came the grapes, now it’s time to collect olives.
Saturday afternoon was the perfect day to do this, so we visited our friend Nico at his agriturismo. Agriturismi are working farms that operate as B&Bs and restaurants. The food served in the restaurant is grown and produced on the land, or on that of neighboring farms. This, of course, includes the olive oil.
It was a short walk to the olive grove, where Nico had set up a demonstration for us. Our students tested out modern olive shakers, knocking the olives into the nets that lie on the ground. Prior to these inventions, the olives would have been picked by hand. We were told that not so long ago, it was common for workers to get paid in oil during the harvest.
Afterward, we toured the frantoio, were the olives are pressed. First, the leaves are blown off using fans. The olives are then crushed using large granite wheels, which turn them into a paste. The paste is spread onto circular mats that are stacked in a column that is slowly pressed. The juices are collected and filtered, resulting in an oil that glows brilliant green and is the freshest, tastiest, most delicious thing you can imagine. This was verified when Nico and his buddies prepared a traditional garlic and oil pasta for us – aglio olio – using the oil that had been pressed that day.