Sunday 26th March 2023
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As a Scotsman I never, in my wildest dreams, dreamt to one day be climbing into the branches of an olive tree in Umbria, Italy, let alone my olive trees to be picking olives to make my own Olive Oil. But it is a reality.
Toward the second half of October I look out the nets, crates and ladders and other paraphernalia ready to take them all to the Olive trees and together with friends start the olive harvest. It’s a task I adore. Increasingly we pick earlier each year. I remember days when it was bitterly cold and the wind was biting. With global warming we now start earlier, the olives are ready sooner, the mills open, and we generally pick in just T shirts and shorts. To date I’ve not attempted naked picking, it may happen, who knows….
I’m not going to write too much of the procedure here, I wrote extensively in the past, so scroll back through my posts a good few years and you can learn exactly how we pick and press the olives, and what is my favourite meal of the year.
So nets spread on the ground we pick in company. Some on the ground reaching up into the lower branches, some on ladders propped on sturdy and sometimes not so sturdy branches, and some of us climbing into the trees. It is a delightful sociable time. Lots of gossip, laughter and scandal. Frequent breaks always refreshed by a bag of apples, those small rosy ones picked off the trees that grow wild in the valley, crisp and juicy.
Picking done, it can take some days, we head off to the Frantoio in our local town of Gubbio. We still go to Frantoio Rossi, read about the procedure in a previous post. The process is traditional, as it always has been. I know the vogue is for laboratory sterile air-free mills, but we are dealing with a foodstuff. We pick with love and I think the olives deserved to be treated with a bit of dignity, not as a laboratory experiment.
Anyway back home with our green gold we toast saltless Umbrian bread over the wood fire, rub the slices with garlic and sprinkle with salt before dousing the bread liberally in what is green peppery pungent oil. The peppery green-ness subsides after a couple of weeks, so it is always magical dinner washed down with local red wine.
Here at Bellaugello Gay Guest House we sprinkle our oil over salads, we cook with our oil, we bake focaccia and other breads with our oil. Our oil is an ingredient in our ‘Panzanella’ a cold sunup crammed full of fresh fresh vegetables, and our oil has been known to be used as a sun cream…
We put a small bottle of our Olive Oil in the rooms here at Bellaugello. Each room has a kitchen corner, so it seems fitting to give you a taster of our oil to smother on your tomatoes, mozzarella and salads.
We also have Bellaugello Olive Oil for sale in the guesthouse. Bottles of 250ml and 500ml. Great for your kitchen and great for gifts. Pick some up when you stay Bellaugello