In Tuscany olives are harvested from November to December . Usually, the olives are picked by hand while they are still green and not quite ripe using the traditional method called brucatura, in which olives are “combed” from the branches with a scissors-shaped instrument. Mechanical harvesting is becoming more common, but brucatura is still considered the ideal way to harvest olives, because it protects both the olives and the trees from damage.
Harvesting olives is hard, often tedious work. Traditionally, the olive growers of Tuscany will reward family and friends who help out with the harvest with an al fresco picnic lunch right there in the olive grove: a bottle of good wine, some Tuscan bread and cheese, perhaps a mixed grill of meats or Tuscan white beans with rosemary. Many travel companies now offer trips to small farms or estates in Tuscany, where guests can spend a week picking olives, eating authentic Tuscan cuisine, enjoying the gracious hospitality and landscape, and watching as the olives are processed into fine oil.
Pressing for flavour
Time is of the essence! Once they are harvested, olives, like grapes, must be pressed as quickly as possible to avoid oxidation or fermentation, which can mar the flavour of the oil or make it taste rancid. Each olive consists of only about 20 percent oil, so it takes a few hundred olives to make less than a single litre of oil; often, producers of the finest oils can extract only a litre or two of oil from an entire olive tree. In Tuscany, the olives are taken to a communal mill called a frantoio, to be pressed into oil and bottled. At the mill, the olives are crushed to create an olive pulp. The pulp is further processed to extract a mixture of oil and water. The oil and water then are separated in a centrifuge and the fresh, fragrant oil is poured into terra cotta jugs or, at more modern mills, into steel tanks. The oil is left to sit for 30 and 40 days to clear, after which it is filtered and bottled.
Celebrating the Olive Harvest
Like wine, the simplest and best way to appreciate olive oil is to taste it. Our Tuscan olive oil tasting and harvest experience is a fun way for you to celebrate the olive harvest and discover how surprisingly delicious and flavourful truly good olive oil can be.