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Facts About Italian Olives

Italy produces olive oil and is the second greatest producer in the world.  (Spain is in first position.)

Olives and olive oil are a very important part of the Italian diet. 
l'olivo = the olive tree         l'oliva  = the olive
l'oliveto  or  l'uliveto =  the olive grove
l'oliva verde  =  the green olive
l'oliva nera =  the black olive

In Toscana (Tuscany) in the area of Magliano, there grows a magical olive tree.  It is believed to be over three thousand years old!  It is known as 'The Witch's Olive Tree'  - L'Olivo della Strega
Read a story about this tree.

olivo della strega.jpg

Traditionally, olives are first picked on the 1st of November. This date is All Saints' Day - il giorno d' Ognissanti in Italian.  The period of their harvest lasts until mid-December. 

To make olive oil, the olives are pressed.  The oil produced from the first pressing is considered the best, with the strongest flavour.  It is called 'extra virgin'  - extra vergine  - meaning that it is the purest form of the oil.

The land where olive trees grow must be kept very clean.  At the time of the harvest, the olive-pickers lay down netting on the ground underneath the trees. 

There are two ways in which to pick olives:- 
A.  Special machinery clasps the branches and vibrates, causing the olives to fall.  They drop onto the fine netting which is then lifted, trapping the olives but letting other unwanted particles fall through to the ground.
B.  Instead of using machinery, you pick them by hand, standing on a ladder if you cannot reach.

Olive oil is used in most Italian cookery.  A popular and simple way to eat spaghetti is to toss it in olive oil with finely chopped garlic and chilli pepper.  This dish is called Spaghetti all'aglio, olio e peperoncino.  It is very quick and easy to prepare!

Buon appetito!

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