Sunday, October 28, 2012

It's Olive Harvest Time in Tuscany

Late October and November signal the moment for olive harvesting in Tuscany. This is a great time of year – the grapes have been collected and then comes the time to make another local specialty, extra virgin olive oil. The whole process is interesting to watch (and participate in). If you happen to be in Tuscany during this season there are many opportunities for you to take part in this ancient ritual.

Although the large estates use modern equipment for harvesting, on smaller farms they still handpick their olives and take them to the public mills for pressing and bottling. Today many local farmers welcome visitors to help gather the olives. The process is hard work, but usually proves to be a lot of fun. Without a doubt it is an authentic experience of agricultural labor as it was even centuries ago. Once the olives have been collected, a trip to the mill allows you to see the pressing and bottling process – and take home a bottle of “your own” extra virgin oil. This final product is called olio nuovo – which means new oil. It is considered a real delicacy, because unlike wine, olive oil is best when just pressed. The cooler temperatures of the season welcome Tuscany’s more wintery cuisine, which includes a wide variety of hearty soups where it is customary to drizzle the new oil on top right before eating. Toasted bread coated with new olive oil and garlic is called Fettunta – and no autumn meal would be complete without it.

Clearly, this Tuscan specialty is celebrated throughout the region with fairs and markets, where you can taste and buy the best products. Today extra virgin olive oil has grown in popularity worldwide. International tastings and awards have given Tuscany's extra virgin olive oil its noble status as one of the region's most prized foods. Appreciated for its nutritional benefits as well as for its wonderful taste, this product of excellence is now recognized by connoisseurs. The classification extra virgin is given to olive oil which has been pressed without any treatment - only washing the olives, decanting and filtering, with a maximum acid value of 0.8%. The EU has also assigned designations to ensure the origin and quality of the product: DOP (in English, PDO - Protected Denomination of Origin) and IGP (PGI - Protected Geographic Indication).

1 comment:

  1. The photo of the woman bending over her task is beautifully composed. Also, Tuscany is beautiful ANY way you look at it