WWOOF Work: Olive Harvest
After a weekend getaway to Rome, I returned to Castello di Potentino to get back to wwoofie life!
But first, I got to enjoy a beautiful Sunday evening meal prepared by guest chef Avi. There was a dining room full of guests, and the wwoofers had convened in Sally’s flat to eat.
There, I got to meet our new wwoofmates Isla, Manuela and Clara. We were grateful for their arrival, as we had just lost seven wwoofers over the weekend. We needed some wwoofie power to help with this week’s upcoming tasks!
The next morning, we thanked our lucky stars as we were assigned a new job that didn’t involve de-cobwebbing the entire boiler room: olive harvesting.
There are about 300 olive trees — many of them a century old — on the Castle property, spread out in various locations. Some stand right next to the Castle, some by the swimming pool, and others further away in the neighbouring hills.
The trees produce an indigenous variety of olives, the Olivastra Seggianese, “prized for its intense yet delicate complexity” (from the Castle’s website).
The process of olive harvesting started with bringing the big, green nets over to the trees, and arranging them so that when the olives fell, the nets would catch them.
A couple of people would use electric “strimmers” to shake out the olives high up in the branches. I was the first to volunteer for this task and quickly learned what an intense arm workout it was!
Anyone not on strimming duty would use their hands or small rakes to strip olives from the branches. Some of the more adventurous wwoofers climbed up into the trees to get at olives tucked further away from reach.
The olives looked beautiful falling onto the nets – tumbling around in shades of purple, green and apple-red. When a tree was stripped of all its olives, we’d manoeuvre the olives within the net so that they all ended up together in one big pile.
Then, came everyone’s favourite part: taking a seat on the folds of the net to sift through the colourful olive pile!
The goal was to remove as many branches and leaves as possible, because when it came time to press the olives, we (well, the Castle) would be charged by the pound.
The last step was to pour the olives from the net into a crate. We needed about 40 crates to get them shipped off to the olive press.
Until that was achieved, the nets would be moved to new trees and the olive shaking and stripping would continue!
During this week, the Terroir Symposium food and wine tour group visited the Castle. They spent part of a morning harvesting olives with us, and then went to the olive press to watch the last step of the process.
Olive picking was a favourite for many of the wwoofers. Though the mornings usually started off chilly, the sun would soon appear and warm us right up.
We would enjoy spending time out in the groves, picking the beautiful olives. It was definitely less messy than picking and processing grapes!
However, I did enjoy having a variety of different tasks to do during my stay at Castello di Potentino, including our grape-bonding endeavours.
Another one of our tasks was helping to take care of guests during events. And the following week, a whole lot of guests were scheduled to arrive at the Castle!
>> Read the next post in the WWOOF Italy series: WWOOF Work: Guests and Events