30 October 2010

Hugging Trees and Combing Olives

Have you ever combed a tree?  Really. It's the way olives are hand picked here in our little corner of the world. Each branch combed with a plastic comb to pull down the olives but not disturb the leaves.

And did you know that olives are beautiful when they're ripe? Both on the tree:

And up close and personal, even while olives rain on me, and branches brush my hair:

And once harvested, caught in the nets spread under the trees, they are particularly colorful in their earthy beauty:

They're then scooped up and bagged in tall burlap bags:

And taken to community presses to be made into olive oil, some of which we'll receive for our own use:

As it looked today, this was the view from my friend's yard where her 70, 30 year old olive trees live:

Harvesting olives by hand was a first for me. The day was sunny and 67 degrees, clear with the clean, fragrant air characteristic of towns further up into the mountains. 

The outdoors, the presence of friends, both old and new, the delicious, home made food prepared by my friend (the trees caretaker), the light hearted bantering and whole hearted tree hugging was such a rare and lovely way to spend a day. 

Combing a tree branch by branch turned out to be an intimate act of care and love. It made my heart happy. 

Vincent, too - Olive Grove by Vincent Van Gough:


  1. Combed! Who knew? It looks like it was a delightful day. And how nice that you get to enjoy some of the fruits (so to speak) of your labors. What fun.

  2. How interesting....I did not know about harvesting olives!!! All I do is eat them.....I love all kinds. I bought a jar of calamato to go on my salad tonight...I think they were around $4.00 for 9.5 oz......so delicious!
    What a wonderful experience you had today!

  3. What a wonderful experience! Olives are one of the world's great foods.

  4. I never knew about the 'combing'. I thought they just shook the trees and the olives fell into the nets. Also, I have never understood why some are still green and some are already black and yet they are all deemed to be ripe. There is SO much I don't know about olives! Except that I love them and I love olive oil. And I love olive trees. Olive groves always feel so amazingly peaceful and tranquil. Thank you for this wonderful and interesting post.

  5. Patti, It was delightful. The feast that followed- fun!
    Nanny, The olives of our area are green and delicious (and cheap!). The ones we picked were for oil.
    B.O. Grandma, I agree. The olives here are plentiful and inexpensive enough that I enjoy them often.
    Elderwoman, Thank you. Living in this mostly rural area of Italy has taught me many new things, including this combing tradition. Olives are also harvested by "clappers" driven by generators, but this isn't nearly as lovely. The olives are black when they're ripe but their still green neighbors are considered ripe enough to harvest and press.
    p.s. I'm loving your book: "Greenspirit"!

  6. What fun! I would love to do that!

  7. Nan, You'd like it and so would the boys. Next year?

  8. Mar, I just love how happy you and John look in these pictures. You're still my heroes of marriage. And now of olive picking!

  9. Elisabeth, I'm happy, we're happy and he's just so cute!


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