Thursday, 23 October 2008
Olive harvest is on
There is something very special about the olive harvest season in Italy. Here in Sabina, the way olives are harvested has remained unchanged for thousands of years. The olives are picked manually when they begin to turn from green to black. This is exactly the right time to harvest, as it ensures the olives are blessed with the highest amounts of antioxidants and vitamins and a low acidity content. Of course olives ripen differently according to the amount of sunshine they get each day. Even within our beautiful region of Sabina, some olive groves are ready for harvest now and some others will be in two weeks time. In fact, the olive grove that our guests visit during their Convivio Rome Italian cooking holiday will be picking this weekend and we will be joining in the fun.
Olives are quickly transported to the press. This needs to happen within 24 hours from picking. It's better to keep off the roads at this stage, as hundreds of Piaggio 'Apes' (the typical motorcycle-engined three wheel mini-trucks) full of olives can be found racing around the windy streets!
Nowadays, the olives are pressed by modern stainless steal machines, able to control the temperature. Only cold-pressed olive oils from around this area can be called 'Sabina DOP' olive oils, a stamp of superior quality. Low temperature pressing ensures that all the nutrients of the olives are chemically unchanged.
Olive oil is very, very good for you, with its antioxidants and the ability to increase good cholesterol and decrease the bad (this is proven by several scientific studies). But, it has to be good quality. A good Italian extra virgin olive oil has to have the 'DOP' stamp on the bottle and always comes in dark coloured glass: this shows that the producer is serious about its 'green gold'.