Amounts of olives

olive-1OLIVE 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 . . .

I learnt how to harvest olives last year. The process is simple: place nets on the ground beneath the tree; hit the branches with poles; gather the olives when the tree has yielded its fruit; drag the nets to the next tree. This year I’m on my own, like Forrest Gump on his first shrimping trip.

My land is divided into two equal parts, with 25 olive trees on each, which is uncharacteristically proportionate for Spain and much more suited to somewhere like Germany. The first 25 trees are youngish and easily accessible; the second 25 are older, gangly, and interspersed with other species, which renders access problematic.

I embark on the easy 25, and by the end of the day I’ve enticed the olives from 21 trees. Actually, the true figure is 15 because I harvested six trees yesterday afternoon just to warm up. This is really Day 1.5, but that complicates things unnecessarily.

My friend Fiona (main picture) helps to bag the olives. Fiona looks more Spanish than the Spanish but she comes from Barnet. That’s the Barnet north of Granada and south of Luton.

As the sun goes down I have four-and-a-half sacks of olives – about 135 kilograms. That’s not so good from 21 trees. I was expecting more, but it’s a bad year for olives in Andalucia, apparently. How did Forrest Gump fare on his first shrimping trip? Can’t remember.

olive-2 olive-3 olive-4OLIVE HARVEST, DAY 2: The sun rises after 8am in Andalucia because General Franco ordered Spanish clocks to tick-tock in Berlin time, Hitler being such a good friend and all that – and despite Madrid being a sizeable distance to the west of London. By 10am I’ve finished the first 25 trees, just as my friend Bruce arrives to offer assistance.

By the end of the day we’ve stripped six of the big, gangly, overgrown trees, administering a serious pruning as we go. By nightfall our tally of sacks has reached ten – approximately 300 kilograms of fresh olives. Two of the trees yielded more than a sackful each. That’s more like it.

It’s 6pm in Orgiva as the sun sinks behind the mountains, and 5pm to the east in Darlington. Strange old world.

olive-5

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18 thoughts on “Amounts of olives

    1. I never thought I’d end up as an olive farmer, Cuz, but by an accident of fate I appear to have landed that role. They have all been squashed into oil, so if you are ever down this way bring some empty bottles.
      Chheers, Alen

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  1. Very interesting post, Alen. Do they taste good your olives? I like olives, they are nice with almonds. What about the pruning. Did Fiona helped you with that?
    In one of your earlier posts there was something about a bathtub in the mountains of Wales near Bethany and a bad foot?
    You can use the olive oil to a new Bethany Health & Wellness. Sorry now it seems that I’ve moved the Mount of Olives into Andalusia? You move over large distances so I’m probably apologized.
    Now I am annoyed that I haven’t been in Bethany when my way fell over Jerusalem years ago but there might come another chance 🙂
    Merry Christmas,
    Hanna

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    1. Hi Hanna. You’ve covered some ground there, as we English say. The olives are disgustingly sour until they are cured. Notes about that process in the next post. And I had forgotten about the previous reference to Bethany, and the man who was told to take up his mattress and walk. If I’d remembered then I could have added a bit in. Welsh water is good for you, and so are Andalucian olives. They probably go well together.
      All the best, Alen

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  2. Always interesting to learn stuff, but I’m afraid I’ve only ever had one olive. Ate one by accident when I was about 15, mistaking it for a grape. Never again….. Good luck with the olive (funnily enough that was my mother’s name) venture though – there are plenty of people out there who do love them!

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  3. Olive trees are fascinating, there are some particular ancient ones in your area.
    The first time I picked, by the wayside, what looked like a ripe black olive I was sorely disappointed with its taste not realising the processes needed to bring it to market. Those markets are amazing for variety.
    In better times I have visited friends in Tunisia and helped out with their communal harvesting and celebrations.
    Olive oils are an essential to life and one can see why there are Hispanic festivals celebrating their virtues. I’ve visited traditional communal olive extraction plants in Spain, I suppose that’s where your crop will be going. How do you decide whether to have the olives cured or ‘oiled’? Maybe your next post will tell us.
    On my desk here I have a piece of olive wood purportedly from one of the ancient trees on the actual ‘Mount’ outside Jerusalem [bless its Gods], at least that’s what the man told me when I handed him my shekel.
    You missed a chance to hold out an ‘olive branch’ to your readers.
    Mejores deseos y feliz navidad …

    PPS I thought Darlington was to the west of you – the far west!

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    1. Blimey, John. I don’t know where to start on this one. The end will do. I know what you mean about Darlo being in the far west. Just got back from there, having spent an interesting night in the Hole in The Wall while tumbleweed bounced across the market place. Interestingly, Orgiva is 3.5 degrees to the west of Greenwich while Darlington is only 1.5. I looked this up last week because there is talk of realigning the clocks with GMT, which would bring Spain in line with its immediate neighbours, Portugal and Morocco. Might cause problems with the French, mind.
      My olives have been crushed for oil and a post will appear soon. From what I can gather, there are many different varieties of olive but those around here are cultivated almost exclusively for oil. Olives for curing tend to be bigger and juicier. Also, they require much more attention to keep them disease and pest free. People don’t want worms in their stuffed olives – but the worms disappear magically when crushed in an oil mill.
      I should really look into olive lore because it is ancient and runs deep. That’s a task for the future. There is a walk around Orgiva which takes in the ancient trees, and I am ashamed to say I haven’t walked it yet, despite it running within 200 metres of my house.
      Feliz Navidad para ti también, Alen

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      1. Glad you’ve been back to Darlo. Next time try the Green Dragon in Post House Wynd, great little alleys round there. All getting a bit too ‘wine bar’
        One of my relatives runs the ‘Hole in the Wall’
        Where do the oldies go for a quiet pint anymore?
        Just remembered the old expression ‘well oiled’

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        1. I’ve only ever been in the Green Dragon once. Had a pint in the Red Lion to see if I could see any of my former colleagues (didn’t, so went for a haircut instead), then meandered to the Hole in the Wall. I’ve always liked the Hole – pleasant atmosphere and good selection of beers. That’s as far as I got. Sat there trying different beers until Anne found me. Very agreeable couple of hours. Can’t say I was well oiled, more pleasantly primed.

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  4. Well done, Alen! Sounds like hard work, olive-beating but Agnes (Betty?) has the right idea, in just sitting and waiting for them to plop off! Are you keeping the oil or are you going to sell it in local markets?

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    1. Hi Jo. Yes, it’s Agnes. Cats have a knack of settling down right in the middle of where you intend to work.
      We’ll be keeping some oil and selling the remainder, though selling it to whom is a bit of a mystery at the moment. Time will tell.
      Cheers, Alen

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