Island life is dictated by certain events, and olive picking is one of the most important ones. Many of us (or at least the author of this text) can’t wait for summer to end and autumn to show its colors cause this usually means – olives will soon be ready for picking.
Olive picking means leaving behind your dancing shoes (cause you most definitely won’t have the energy to dance when you need to get up before the sun!) and putting on your dirty old clothes, a couple of layers, some of which you will eventually take off, as soon as the sun starts to shine over your olive grove. Ours is on a drive from Pučišća to Postira, when you turn left near Bračuta.
It’s not big – there are a total of 40 olive trees, which is not much, considering many people own even more than 100! This usually means we will get enough olive oil for the entire family and the entire year. If we’re lucky and the year was good, we just might have some to sell.
Olive picking starts early in the morning – it’s a job which takes up a lot of time, and we all want to be finished before the great cold comes in or the strong winds throw olives to the ground. Also, many of our family members work during the week and the only time available for picking is the weekends. Adding the fact that the sun sets so early these days, getting up early, however hard it might be, is a must.
As soon as we got to the olive grove, we put on our saket, which is a bag or a waist pack which you tie around your waist to put picked olives in. Once your saket is full, you untie it and pour the olives into a larger mesh bag or a plastic bin. We like to keep our olives “clean”, so we make sure to remove all the stems and leaves which make olive oil taste a bit more bitter. However, sometimes you end up picking more than you planned – like this weird mushroom we found!
Olive picking is not hard. It takes time, you have to stand up all the time (or if you’re more skilled, sit on a branch picking those that are way up high), but the fresh air and great company make it a great trip and even better exercise! It is also very satisfying knowing you’re a part of the centuries-long tradition of olive oil production. We also love the fact that we are creating our own food – olives which we grew ecologically (our grandparents laugh when we mention this because our generation made a trend of something very normal to them – not so long ago, all food was eco!) and which we picked by hands, are soon to become oil in which we’ll enjoy for months to come!
But, our favorite part must be marenda – breakfast or brunch however you wish to call it. There is always some homemade wine, bread, cheese and fruits, and nowadays salami, cookies, or just leftovers from yesterday’s meals. We opt for some coffee and a lot of mandarins. Marenda takes time in the middle of the picking so you don’t get too tired or bored, but so you can fill up on energy for the rest of the working day. It is usually served as a picnic, on the table cloth spread across the ground, or on a table in front of a small shed, such as this one.
Once you’re done with olive picking for the day, you start picking around, whatever else (edible!) grows on your field (and only yours, don’t go stealing around). Do you know what these are? Have you tried them? We call them manjiga, and google translate says its bearberry. They’re not ripe yet but we found few to try.
After a long day in the olive grove, we head home, tired and sleepy, but happy and with a huge grin on our faces. Each time, we hear and learn something new – stories of our ancestors, our relatives, or just some old funny songs our grandparents sang when they were younger. Somehow, most of them could be described as mating songs! 🙂 Guess our elderly had more interesting lives than we give them credit.
Once we’re home, the next thing we must do is put all these olives we picked into a huge container and pour sea over them. This is an old technique that many don’t use anymore, but our grandparents are certain that it makes olive oil taste better. And who can argue with decades of experience? So, we head over to the port of Pučišća, pour some sea in cans, stop by for a beer, all sweaty and stinky (but it’s ok, cause it’s that time of the year) and head back home. One more day of olive picking is behind us, and one more is in front of us. We spend the rest of the day playing games, waiting for the appropriate time to go to sleep. Six in the afternoon isn’t too early, right?!