Tuscany, The year of the Olive

by Samuele Sodini

Olives, those beautiful silvery trees, have today become a visual metaphor for Italy.
Nevertheless, seldom does anyone come to Italy solely for the purpose of growing olives and making olive oil. Most foreign-born cultivators naively back into it somehow. Olives usually enter their lives on a ” bit of land ” just beyond the garden of their dream home, whether it be a humble farmhouse or a full-blown villa.
Those gnarled trunks look so expressively romantic.
The delicate leaves gently sea basking in the Mediterranean sun. The terraced groves are so suggestive of a living link across time to departed generations. Yes… but, wander into any local bar and take a look around at the old tuskers playing cards or arguing over this year’s olive crop and you’ll notice they’ve grown as gnarled as their trees.
Olive farming is indeed lovely work with long hours spent in solitary meditation, but it is also year-round hard work.
The year starts in Februarywith the cutting down of the undergrowth in the olive grove and fertilizing each tree. March and April are pruning time and burning of the cuttings. In May the trees go into bloom, dropping their tiny white flowers on the ground like a summer snow. June the undergrowth is cut again to prevent fire in the olive grove.
July and August is quit time while the olives are left to grow in the hot, dry summer. In late September, some additional light pruning and cutting undergorwth is again on the agenda.
October brings the laying of the nets. November, December and beyond is harvest time and taking the olives to the frantoio to make olive oil and January is clean up time – taking up and putting away the nets and equipment and, of course, enjoying the fruit of our labor!

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