A SUNKISSED AUTUMN HARVEST
How did we end up picking olives for a week in Southern Italy with Franco and Tania's family? Was it a Divine intervention? Anthony's self-determination with a little bit of luck? I will never know, but what I do know is that I couldn't be happier than where I am now...harvesting olives on the fertile shores of the Calabrian coast, underneath autumn’s golden sun in a grove of 100 yr old olive trees, bright-orange persimmon fruit, and tart colorful clementines.
The olives are vibrant purples, greens, and reds. With one prick of a needle, their taut, smooth skin looks as though it would burst, overflowing with golden juices or sizz up towards the sky like a deflated balloon.
Harvesting olives is like brushing the knots out of an old woman's mad, billowing hair. I imagine them alive, like the trees in the wizard of Oz. I flex to my tippy toes and grip the top of a branch, close my eyes, and pull the comb downwards towards my belly button. I can feel the olives tapping my head and bouncing upon my shoulders as they fall and scatter in the ripples of green net that lie beneath us.
Once we have combed a tree free of it’s olives, we gather at the edges of the green nets and hold them up causing the olives to tumble towards the center of the net. We then pour the heap of olives into the crates, bring the crates to Tania’s father who removes the sticks and leaves. I have never seen an old man so happy, he is crippled and so proud to finally be of help. Franco's mother, Rosa, also spends her days with us, picking up the biggest olives from the nets below to cure for her friends.
After leaving the olives with the old man, we move onto the next tree. When I feel like taking a break, I walk over to the clementine and kaki trees and pick a few for Anthony and I. I have never had persimmon (kaki) fruit before, it’s so delicious. The juice beneath the skin is warm from the sun and so so sweet. I close my eyes and slurp up the yummy warm juice.
When the sun is at is strongest we tip over the empty crates and sit underneath the shade of the olive trees or lie on the grass as we eat Tania’s homemade picnic and sip beer.
At the end of the day's harvest, we accompany Franco to the olive press. On our way we have to wait for the local shepherd and his flock to pass the car. When we arrive at the olive press we help Franco unload the olives and take a tour of the facility.
At around 4:00 pm we head back to Franco and Tania's home to make Tania's Wild Artichoke Penne and Rosa's homecooked eggplant parmesan & eggplant cutlets. We spend the afternoon and evening with Rosa in her small kitchen learning her favorite traditional recipes. We have never seen an 88 year old woman with so much energy! We shared the recipes (click on the links) below for everyone to enjoy, they are 100% Calabrese and delicious!! That night Franco drives us back to our apartment and we fall asleep sun-kissed and happy to the cool breeze of the fan.