Olive growing in Sorrento, Italy

“Here, there are beautiful fields of olive trees with silver-gray leaves, similar to nodding willows. I shall never tire of the blue sky.”

Vincent Van Gogh

Sorrento is a beautiful town in southern Italy that enchants with its fragrance of olives, citrus, flowers, sea, and delicious food.

In Sorrento and its peninsula, the cultivation of olives dates back to ancient times. Olive trees have been cultivated here since Greek times (Magna Grecia).

In that proof, there are numerous temples dedicated to the goddess Minerva. In the temples, the pilgrims used old oil containers to offer oil as a vow to the goddess. The temple erected by the Phocians on Punta Campanella is the most famous on the Sorrento Peninsula. Here is where pilgrims bought olive oil to light it on the altar of the goddess Minerva. Punta Campanella is the most betrayed peninsula in the Gulf of Naples).

Sorrento has a favorable Mediterranean climate; the layers of volcanic rock, the mineral-rich soil, and the terraced hills that rise above the town suit the cultivation of olive trees. On these terraced hills, a particular variety of olive is born, from which the “liquid gold” is an extra virgin olive oil of Penisola Sorrentina D.O.P (Penisola Sorrentina DOP). This olive oil, typical of the area, is obtained by pressing 65% Minuccola or Ogliarola olives mixed with 35% Rotondella, Frantoio, and Leccio olives.

The olives 

The abbreviation DOP stands for Denominazione di Origine Protetta. It is an acronym for products produced exclusively in a particular area. For example, Sorrento lemons come under this sign, too, with a European-level certificate.

How are the olives harvested?

The maturation period of the olives 

The best period to harvest the olives is between October and December. It’s a crucial stage in producing the oil, depending on the olive oil’s taste and quality. However, the olive harvesting techniques also impact the final quality of the oil. There are various harvesting methods, but the ones listed below are those used to make the oil of the Sorrentine Peninsula:

  • Brucatura, or hand-picking, is the most commonly used method. The olives are harvested by striking the tree branches with long sticks. Like this, the olives detach from the stem and fall onto the nets previously stretched around the trees.

  • Pettinatura or combing – in this method, the olive branches are searched with an instrument resembling a large, long fork. This device can also be mechanical. The olives detach from the stem and fall onto the nets stretched under the trees.

  • Bacchiatura is when the olive tree is very tall. Then, the branches are struck with sticks, so the olives fall onto nets from where they are collected.

  • Raccattura is when the olives are allowed to fall naturally from the tree, i.e., fully ripe. After that, the people should collect them from the ground. However, this method is unsuitable for producing quality olive oil. Furthermore, when over-ripe olives fall to the ground, they risk rotting more quickly or becoming contaminated with bacteria or mold. The fruit itself is over-ripe and does not contain enough oil.

The nets under the olive trees 

The nets under the olive trees 

The nets under the olive trees 

The nets under the olive trees 

The nets under the olive trees 

The nets under the olive trees 

The nets under the olive trees 

The nets under the olive trees 

From the tree to the mill

Once all the olives are collected, they have to be placed in plastic crates with holes so that there is enough air to keep them fresh.

Then, the olives go to the mill (Frantoio) within 48 hours, becoming the oil. The processing process begins with cleaning the olives of leaves and other vegetable debris, usually done mechanically in the mill or beforehand by hand. After cleaning, the olives undergo various processing stages: pressing, crushing, and pressing. Pressing can be cold to obtain better quality olive oil or hot.

Storage of finished olive oil

The newly produced olive oil is stored in dark glass containers or tin cans to avoid contact with light. The extra virgin olive oil of the Sorrentine Peninsula DOP is a condiment and a valuable companion in everyday life. It usually has a sweet (not sugary) taste, with slightly bitter and spicy notes harmoniously balanced. Thus, olive oil is the perfect accompaniment to most of the gastronomic dishes of Sorrento and the Campania region, from fresh fish to salads, grilled vegetables, barbecued meats, and as an ingredient to this area’s lemon cake, Delizia al Limone.

Delizia al Limone

Thank you,

Svetlana

Svetlana Hristova

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