I have been looking to participate in an olive harvest or una raccolta d’oliva in Liguria for a couple of weeks now and was thrilled when I found out about a tour being offered by Eataly to visit Oliver Roi in Badalucco who produces mono-cultivated taggiasca olives. Eataly in turn, created Eatinerari to organize tours of the various artisan producers whose products are sold in their specialty markets.
The tours offered by Eatly are conducted in Italian so it’s a great way for me to work on my language skills and meet people from various backgrounds. Had it not been for a group of individuals from Camere di Commercio Italiane, a sort of chamber of commerce organization based in Turin, I would have missed out on this experience all together! Grazie alle Camere di Commercio Italiane and it was a pleasure meeting you all!
I have been infatuated with taggiasca olives ever since I first tried them. The taggiasca olive is a black olive with a delicate flavor due to its high oil content. These olives originate from the town of Taggia in Liguria. Liguria is the region just to the south of Piedmont and both regions share their borders with France.
Also, I am a huge fan of Oliver Roi Extra-Virgin olive oil. Their oil has a delicate, yet rich flavor which I use to cook and bake with and it’s also the base for all of my home-made vinaigrettes.
The timing could not have been any better. A typical harvest season begins in November and can run all the way until March. The olive groves that are located along the coast of the Mediterranean sea begin their harvest season a little sooner, usually in October.
The terrain in Liguria is quite rugged…composed almost entirely of mountains and valleys. Tiered rows are constructed most everywhere allowing producers of various types of agriculture to thrive, but in a very particular fashion.
Upon arriving in Montalto I quickly realized just how difficult or faticoso (fah-ti-co-zo) a harvest would be. Tiers are cut directly into the hillsides. A chestnut wood stick and “electric hands” are used to knock the olives from their branches. Green nets are sewn together horizontally all throughout the grove. The nets serve two purposes: two catch the olives that fall to the ground and also so one can get underneath the nets to knock the olives down to another part of the hillside by way of gravity.
Montalto is just outside of Badalucco. On our ride to Badalucco we took a tour of this beautiful and charming town…and I was immediately taken by the streams of crystal clear mountain water, interspersed with cascades and bridges entirely constructed of stone.
We ate lunch at Ristorante Vecchio Frantoio, which serves typical Ligurian cuisine. My favorite dish was the stoccafisso di Badalucco or stocafissu a Baücôgna in the Ligurian dialect. It’s a seafood dish that originates from Badalucco. Unsalted, air-dried cod, haddock or hake is cooked slowly in beef stock (yes, this is what I was told) with olive oil, taggiasca olives, garlic, parsley, anchovies, crushed hazelnuts and pine nuts. I was also told that this dish is traditionally served with red wine. Everything at Vecchio Frantoio is homemade or casalinga style.
The restaurant contains a deeply impressive painting of women working on their knees and using their aprons to gather olives. This old technique of harvesting, done in a rather rapid fashion, is still referred to with great pride. “Raspiuià! Raspiuià!”