Here is my latest completed Ladies of the Sea block featuring an Italian fishing ship.
Think Italian. Think Olives. Think Italian olive oil. Thus the olive wreath twined around the Italian fishing ship. Yes, great olive oil comes from Italy but I am a bit partial to California olive oil. Here’s why.
My nephew, Conway, is a California olive grower and along with a buddy, Adam, operates an olive harvesting business. Last fall I had the pleasure of visiting during olive harvest where Conway, Adam, and their crew (mostly other nephews and niece, Katie) introduced me to modern olive harvesting.
Black, purple, green – they all get harvested at once. The greener the fruit the stronger and more pungent the oil. The riper fruit (black) produces a bland or washed out flavor. There are three major olive varieties, the most common is Arbequina. Asclolana and Koronieki are the other two, but don’t put them to memory because they all look pretty much the same.
I rode with my nephew, Andy, who said all you have to do is keep the harvester lined up with the trees. Yea, right!
After I rode for a few rows and asked a million questions Andy said, “Are you ready to drive Aunt Barb?” I traded seats with him and took the wheel. In spite of all the vibrating going on inside the harvester it’s a pretty smooth ride! When I finished my row the harvesters prepared to move on to another field and I headed over to the California Olive Ranch mill to see the unloading and crushing operation.
Inside the pressing room (off limits to visitors) another conveyer belt takes the olives to another hopper where they are weighed. The grower gets paid by weight. The harvesting crew gets paid by the acre.
The fruit is washed before going to a hammer mill where it is pulverized. The pulverized mass – skins, pulp, pits and all, goes to a malaxor where a mixer gently massages the olive goop. The massaging causes the oil to rise to the top. The pumice, or olive mass, goes into a series of centrifuges where the majority of the pumice gets separated from the oil.
At the far end of the hall, off limits to visitors, is the bottling room. I could hear the tinkling of glass as labels were stuck on the dark green bottles and they were sent down the line to be filled with olive oil. The air was filled with the peppery scent of fresh olive oil. Yum.
The pulp and crushed olive pit mush, called pumice, is loaded onto trucks, hauled off,and turned into cattle feed. Meanwhile the bottled oil is shipped to stores all across the United States.
And that’s how California olives are harvested and turned into olive oil. Pour some in a dish, add a dash of spice, and dip a piece of fresh baked bread into it. And thank a California Olive Grower!