So it’s been over 6 months since my move to Croatia and the first time that I’ve been available for olive picking season. This is something that I have wanted to do ever since I heard that Ante’s family had kept olive trees for generations and each year they make olive oil from them. For one reason or another, I always “escaped” as Ante likes to call it.
When I told him that I was genuinely interested and looking forward to the experience, he laughed and said, “yeah?? Tell me that after day 3 when you still have another 80 trees to pick!”
I’ll give you a quick run down of the process:
You take one tree at a time and pick all the olives off and let them collect in some tarpaulin at the base. I was of course clambering all over them satisfying the child in me that has always enjoyed climbing trees, wishing for the tree house that never came. What is caught in the tarpaulin is then transferred into buckets and eventually pallets.
At the end of the day, the real work starts. You “clean” each pallet, getting rid of the unwanted twigs/leaves that you picked up along the way and tossing any of the bad olives.
I’m told not everyone does this next part, but we then transferred the cleaned pallets to a drum with enough seawater to cover the produce. This preserves the olives until every tree has been picked and the process is over.
So I guess Ante’s point is that it’s repetitive therefore boring at times. But let’s just say that I only received a short introduction to olive picking this year.
Usually the season for picking is at the end of October/November but people here were advised to start picking early or risk them rotting. All the trees in the region had been under attack from a certain insect and the result was one of the worst years for olive production.
I don’t know what a good season should look like but I knew this was wrong and rather depressing for everyone involved. Some trees were just scanned for a few olives to place in the bucket. When we cleaned the olives back at the house 50% were chucked away because the condition was so poor.
To give you an idea, his family have a total of 102 trees. On an average year it can take 30+ days to complete the process. The trees are so bountiful, you are lucky if you clean 6 trees in a day.
The year I am here though? Three days and we were finished! Let’s just say that my first experience was not ideal.
To be honest the summer hasn’t been ideal either! The family have been joking that I brought the British weather with me. Whilst Jersey has received one of the best summers ever, we received very unusual weather - rainfall and thunderstorms that I know isn’t typical for their summers. The only plus is that when it storms in Croatia it usually disappears and the sun comes back out a couple of hours later.
So there we are, I finally make the move to Croatia and my first summer is pretty average and my first olive picking experience is an absolute catastrophe. It’s a bloody conspiracy! I hope they don’t think I’m bad luck and send me back!
We ended up collecting 260kg of olives and it converted into 33 litres of oil. Not too bad you might say… But considering they pretty much drink the stuff here, I’m not sure we’ll have enough.
They have a saying here that the fish in Dalmatia swim 3 times. Once in the sea, then in the olive oil, followed by the wine.
All things considered, I think we’ll be relying on the previous year’s oil for 2015.
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Hrvatski prijevod dolazi uskoro...