LIKE a bud bursting on a winter twig, a strange word has sprung from dormancy and entered my lexicon: drupe. You may have been familiar with this word since childhood, even knowingly engaged in plucking a variety of drupes from trees. But it’s a new word for me. Almonds aren’t nuts – they are drupes, I have discovered. I can’t say my world has been shattered by this revelation, but its axis has shifted a couple of degrees . . . Continue reading A drupe in every bite
A CYCLE is developing. At the heart of this new life a structure takes shape like crystals forming in solution. December is the olive harvesting and pressing month, January the pruning and burning month. Work must be finished before the blossom comes. The seasons are in control. It’s not hard to see why ancient peoples were dependent on the calendar and stars . . . Continue reading Cutting edges . . .
OLIVE HARVEST, DAY 5: An epiphany at the mill. We’ve tipped our sacks of olives into a hopper, and the cumulative weight of Fiona’s, Bruce’s and my produce has topped at 727 kilograms. We’ve hung about for nearly five hours waiting our turn in the milling process. We’ve watched in stoic silence as tonnes of shiny black and green fruits have been mashed in the mashers and spun in the spinners, while our batch edges closer to its fate. Waiting their turn in front of us with about 1.5 tonnes of olives to crush is a large family consisting of the grandfather, six or seven middle-aged sons and daughters – or sons-in-law and daughters-in-law – and a couple of teenage grandchildren. As their golden oil begins to flow from a tap, the grandfather produces a fresh loaf of bread . . . Continue reading Bread and thanks
OLIVE HARVEST, DAY 3: Clothes smell of oil. Arms and legs smell of oil. Hair smells of oil. Oil penetrates the skin and gets under the nails. It soaks the nets, soaks the sacks. It lubricates tool handles and the leather of boots. Crushed olives stain the grass and kitchen floor like trodden beetles. My world has become an olive oil production plant. The full sacks mount up slowly – 11, 12, 13 . . . Continue reading Oil in the blood
OLIVE HARVEST, DAY 1: Not so much a baptism of fire, more an anointment with oil. If that sounds a shade biblical, the route from Jerusalem to Bethany passed over the Mount of Olives – where Jesus preached to his disciples – so olives have been an important crop since biblical times, at least. The only route to pass my olive patch is the track that joins Orgiva to the settlement of El Morreon. No disciples, but three herds of goats and a school bus twice daily . . . Continue reading Amounts of olives
A BAND of Celts wander north into new lands and discover a broad river sweeping through forests. They are in awe of the river because it is deep and powerful. They give it a name, and the name is Esk. To later generations this possesses magical, almost ethereal, qualities. The name resonates so strongly it survives several waves of migration: Romans, Anglo Saxons, Scots, Vikings, Normans. Thousands of years after those Celts peered through the rushes, that river is still called Esk. That’s fascinating . . . Continue reading Stream of consciousness
CARROT World is a ruthless place. An unacceptably-high proportion of carrots are considered to be misshapen and are rejected by the shops. They are loaded into cattle trucks and taken to an unknown fate in the east. Only carrots that pass the supermarket suitability test are offered to the public – this is an extremely narrow and subjective view on carrot quality. It’s like saying that only long, thin people with perfect shoulders and fake tans should populate the Earth. That’s been tried and it doesn’t work. But the rule is applied to carrots . . . Continue reading It’s hard being a carrot