Yes, our olive oil just back from the mill certainly is “green gold.”
And this gold is more precious than ever: olive oil production in our region of Umbria is down 28% and our own yield is about 1/3 that of last year, reflecting the overall statistics. The situation could be bleaker: in Emilia Romagna, yield is down 50% and in the regions of Lombardy and Veneto, yield has decreased 65%. The reason? An inordinately cold and rainy spring season delayed pollination.
Although the quantity in central Italy has diminished, quality has peaked: “eccellente gusto nel 2019” (“excellent flavor in 2019”) affirms the CIA (Confederazione di Italiani Agricoltori), with 900,000 members.
The first taste of our olio novo, just back from the mill, affirmed the stellar assessment of Italy’s confederation of farmers. Logicmente, the first taste had to be on a simple bruschetta: no better way to savor the just-pressed “green gold.”
Ingredients are simple: bread, garlic, olive oil and salt.
I toasted slices of bread baked in a wood oven on the top of our woodstove and rubbed each toasted slice with garlic, then sprinkled the bread slices with salt as our bread in Umbria is saltless.
That “green gold” was then drizzled on top.
The olive oil mill not far from Assisi had called us in for our turn to press the evening before.
It was just after dark when Pino unloaded our crates of olives into the large gray square crates of the mill just at the mill entrance. A forklift would transfer them inside the mill.
Inside, other immense crates of olives were stacked near the press, ready to be forklifted into the stainless steel press. It would soon be the turn of the crate of our olives.
In his green coat, Roberto was operating the forklift that lifted the square gray plastic crates, then dumped their olives into the hopper where olives are washed and leaves discarded.
He stopped for a minute to answer Pino’s query about this year’s olive yield for other mill customer’s………
……and then his forklift effortlessly hefted the massive square gray crate with our olives, feeding them into the hopper of the press:
Our olives arrived at the mill with few leaves….
….but many crates had a plethora, although those leaves would be eliminated after passage through the hopper:
As our olives rolled through the press, I stopped to chat with a familiar face from Assisi, Piero, there with his wife and almost ready to head home: the last of their olive oil was flowing into their steel canisters.
And like each producer, they had been in the mill throughout the pressing process, observing the milling of their own olives. An endemic sense of invidia (best translated “jealousy” – rather than “envy”) pervades in rural culture: heaven forbid that one’s own olive oil accidentally mixes with a neighbor’s!
Next to them, a balding man held the funnel over the plastic canisters he’d use for his new olive oil. Like the worker behind him, he had on earphones which the mill also rents out to clients. (The milling equipment’s metallic inferno is not a melodic background sound to the pressing of “green gold.”)
Another mill client near him had also opted for plastic containers:
.After filling the plastic jugs, he weighed them on the scale nearby to check his yield:
Like Piero and his wife, an elderly farmer opted for stainless steel canisters and was carefully putting the lid on one as his olive oil flowed into the other one:
He then loaded those precious canisters onto his Ape truck for the drive home, red plastic crates which had been full of olives, now empty:
As he drove off, another olive producer was unloading, smiling with satisfaction at his trees’ yield this year (unusual for Umbria):
Our own olive oil only filled four 5-litre jugs this year.
But that “green gold” brought a smile just the same.
Read about another olive mill visit
Read about the best harvest ever
Read about olive oil lore
Read about an abundant harvest and Pino’s magic with the olives
Read about Peppa’s judgement of last year’s olive oil
Click here for news on Assisi’s olive oil festival
Read about Spello’s olive oil festival