Olive Harvest in Italy

Last month my husband Roy and I visited Italy and spent a few days on a small farm in Umbria. Rob and Janina Cushman, two wonderful people who share our passion for great olive oil, own Le Mandorelle. With 12-acres and about 300 olive trees, the Cushman’s operate at a scale that is similar to D’Oliva.

As luck would have it, we arrived the day the olive harvest began! I jumped right into the harvest. We used hand tools to pull the olives onto large nets. I wish I could have helped more, but we arrived late in the day and wanted to get a tour of the whole farm before nightfall. But it was fun to help even just a bit!

When the tree was bare of fruit, we would then gently roll the netting and gather the olives. Rob and Janina harvested about 350 kilos from twelve trees.

The next day was opening day for the frantoio (an Italian olive mill). We took the olives in and watched them go through the mill. What a fully Italian experience this was, with fresh bread toasted over an open fire, and then drenched with the warm, freshly milled olive oil! It was quite a crowd with the owner of the frantoio, his staff and family, other farmers… lots of people showing up for opening day.

Rob was anxious to see how much oil would be produced from the 350 kilos. It is an especially large crop this year, but that often means a lower oil yield per kilo of olives. Sure enough, they had about a 9% yield, which is traditionally low.

But wow, what a great oil! Rob and Janina honored us with a bottle of their precious oil, which we now have at home. It is simply delicious! Spicy and very green!

Naturally, we had a large dinner the day of the milling, with fresh olive oil and the Cushman’s wine from their own grapes. A marvelous evening!

After our stay at Le Mandorelle we headed to Tuscany. We saw several frantoios and went into one, but it just wasn’t the same as our experience with Rob and Janina. It was a reminder that producing olive oil is more than just farming – it is friendship, laughter, celebration, and hope all rolled into an orchard of trees.

Thank you, Rob and Janina, for making our Umbrian experience truly memorable. Roy and I can’t wait to go back! But even better, we can’t wait to have our first harvest at D’Oliva!

Janina in the kitchen.

Rob in the mill.