Raccolta delle Olive
photo by author

Raccolta delle Olive

Steven Lee Gilbert

How Olive Oil Gets Made: Branch to Bottle in Under 4 days


We had the incredible experience last week to help some friends in Troina with their olive harvest. Like many things in Sicily, it was a family affair and because these are very special people with very special ways, we feel honored and fortunate to have them as guides on our assimilation into this culture and its traditions. To get here we may have had to travel far in terms of distance, but in terms of food, it was like crossing the backyard, this land, this food, this attitude toward the both of them, caretaker and harvester, felt as home to us as anything.

I put together this short three-minute film to give you some idea of what the harvest was like, and the after harvest too, the cold pressing of olives into oil, and while there is much the video leaves out—like just how well we ate in between all the work, if you’ve ever cut tobacco or hauled hay in the south, you know what I mean!—it does a pretty good job, I hope, of showing that this is not some huge corporate operation. These are family trees on family land, olives picked by family hands and taken to the local frantoio, oil processor, to have the oil extracted by, often, friends of the family.

The machines might be new, but the endeavor itself has existed for centuries, and although to some, it may feel like the opposite of progress, in terms of land use and food, it’s one we must all come back around to and embrace. Thus, the callout at the end of the video to do something yourself to make a thing such as this possible in your town. It won’t be with olives, or maybe it will be, they grow them now in Georgia, I hear.

But I know someone who knows, and you probably do to. If not, head down to your local farmers market and introduce yourself. Chances are they won’t be alone but accompanied by a couple of family members.


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