Olives Olives Olives

May 19, 2009 at 20:51 | Posted in Italian Cooking, Itri, Italy | 2 Comments
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Itri Views of Olive Groves  The olives of Itri are some of the finest grown in the world. Most know them as the olives of Gaeta due to an arrangement made years ago as the port of Gaeta was more recognized than the smaller town of Itri. But the olives themselves are grown up and down all the beautifully terraced mountain groves of Itri. There they benefit from both the mountain air and the sea breezes that blow inland across the mountains. Standing at the top of the Castello di Itri one can look out in all directions and see row upon row of neatly terraced olive groves spreading up and down all of the mountains and hills.

Family Grove

Family Grove

Fires

Fires

              During the month of April one can see and smell the fires as the olive growers trim back the trees and ground scrubs to encourage more fruit growth. This also helps protect the trees during the dangerous fire seasons when lightning strikes can start the wild fires so difficult to fight in the mountains.

       Most experienced farmers will trim the trees back to the two or three main branches and then smaller ones off of those. Keeping those branches trimmed means more of the energy of the tree goes to establish roots and then olive growth instead of small branches and many leaves. The trees are kept small enough that they can use a small ladder to access all of the olives to be harvested.

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        By April most of the olives have been harvested except for those being left to fully blacken on the trees. These are considered the sweetest ones because they so ripen. The farmers take great care at this stage to not bruise the olives by rough handling but because the olives are ripening quickly now, they hang nets beneath the trees overlapping each other so as to not lose any to the ground to spoil or be walked on. 

Save Those Oilives!

Save Those Oilives!

Olives - Saved!

Olives - Saved!

 

 

Nets

Nets

 

    

 

 

     Slow growing by nature, these trees have been tended by the same family for generation upon generation. With care, they live well over one hundred years. They carefully store the olives for the family to eat as well as take some to refineries to be made into deep pungent oil. It is important for un-bruised fruit to be refined in order to monitor the acid content in order to have the sweetest oils. The cold pressed or first pressed is the deepest green known as extra virgin. Then the olives are pressed again and even again a third time to extract the most oils possible. Each pressing results in a lighter colored oil. Nothing is left to waste – after oil is pressed, the waste of the pits is often mashed to become heating fuel as well as mulch for back around the trees. Now that refineries use so much water in the pressing process, they are dealing with the issues of the waste water being toxic. This was not a problem before the larger refineries came into being as the farmers seldom used quantities of water in their smaller local refineries. Now waste water is collected to be disposed of safely and many of the commercial refineries are developing methods of cleaning this water to not foul the water supplies or ground.
       Each stage of the harvest yields a different olive. Nothing beats the flavors of these olives. The strong green new olives, the cracked olives with their more pungent flavor, the tender black olives, and the sweetness of the sundried black olives!

Olives Olives Olives

Olives Olives Olives

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2 Comments »

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  1. What an interesting blog. Thank you for the information. We have an olive tree in our garden here in Spain, so I have taken notes on the pruning etc.

  2. We are an English Couple who came on holiday several times to the beautiful area of South Lazio, which remains relatively undiscovered by foreign tourists. We liked it so much that we decided to sell up in the UK and make our home in the small town of Itri, the home of the Itrana olive variety.

    We purchased a run-down farmhouse with approximately 600 olive trees, and we renovated the house and are currently working on getting the neglected olive grove back into full production.

    The oil derived solely from this wonderful Itrana variety has yet to be duly accredited for its superior quality, being exceptionally low in acidity, in fact far below the 0.8% international standard for Extra Virgin Olive Oil. It is generally accepted that olive oil, this fine natural product, is full of health giving properties. Indeed our 86 year old neighbour seems to be living proof of this, as he is still fit enough to climb his ladder, with secateurs and pruning saw in hand, to lovingly tend his trees.

    The olive oil derived from the Itrana olives, and the “Early November / December Pressing” has a unique exquisite herby taste and aroma.

    We are co-ordinating a small co-operative of local farmers who produce this magnificent olive oil, and also delicious Itri olives, perhaps more common known as “Gaeta olives”.

    Therefore, it is something of an enigma to us, whether by accident or by design, why the superior Extra Virgin Olive Oil from this beautiful area of South Lazio has been kept until now, such a well guarded secret?

    This is a situation we hope to change, as we have a burning desire to help bring this wonderful product to a wider market and share our passion for this, the very best of Italian fayre.

    For further details about these superior products please feel free to contact us.

    ph.shapcott @ btinternet.com


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