Real World Learning for Kids: We Go Olive Harvesting in Puglia

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Appreciating food, its origin and the work that goes into producing it is something we are keen for our children to understand. In travelling, we have opened the door to many opportunities to experience where our food comes from and, much as I love books, travelling with our children has made us realise that there is no better way of learning about something than experiencing it for yourself. And this includes learning about where food comes from.

From organic salad farms in the north of Italy, to a homestead rearing and creating their own produce in Slovenia, to seeing how animals are raised, killed and prepared for food on an organic farm in Albania, to learning how premium foods are created in Vicenza, we have had the privilege of seeing food produced as nature intended from those who work with the land rather than against it.

 

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The more we learn and have the opportunity to be involved in the work first-hand, the more we can appreciate all the time, effort and dedication that goes into producing the food we eat. And true to our own values, the producers we visit and learn from are family-owned and run, making this learning experience so authentic and personal that we all leave with memories we will never forget. When you can relate an experience personally with people you have talked and laughed with, you leave with friends as well as memories. As we have witnessed first-hand with our children, an education through enjoyable memories rather than rote learning from a textbook is the one that will remain. And that, I think, is the best education we can give to our children.

 

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If there is one experience that everyone should have during their lifetime I would say that picking olives on a traditional Italian olive farm has to be one that ranks highly. And there is no better place to do so than in the heart of olive country, in Puglia itself. So it was with great excitement that we had the opportunity to do so thanks to local tour providers touranGo!, who arranged for us to learn about olive oil production through an immersive harvesting and culinary experience. Our day was also captured on a popular local Italian travel programme, Terre del Salento, which you can watch here or at the bottom of this post. What a great experience the day was overall!

 

tourango olive picking experiences in puglia

 

As you drive through the region of Puglia, you cannot fail to notice the abundance of olive trees stretching out mile after mile in front of you.  The prominence of these agricultural majesties should never be underestimated. very tree you will come upon has a historical story within its gnarled and twisted form, displaying its own unique rugged beauty within an indefatigable frame.

 

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How many olive trees are in Puglia alone is unknown but it is thought to be in the region of 60 million or so. The Puglian landscape would be quite unrecognisable without them and so would its economy.

 

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Magnificent, precious and numerous, these trees have proven how even the humblest of products can yield the mightiest roles. The simple olive has played a vital role in Puglia’s economy for thousands of years and this area is now responsible for the production of approximately 40% of Italy’s olive oil and 12% of the world’s.

 

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The olive picking season runs from very late October or early November through to January. It is an extremely busy time of year for the producers and a lot of hard work is involved in order to harvest the produce from their hundreds, sometimes thousands of trees.

 

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Thankfully, they had us to help with this year’s harvest. Aren’t they lucky?

 

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We were welcomed by Marta and her sister who run the olive farm with their parents and their own families. Family values are tremendously high in Italy with many successful businesses having been founded by previous generations. The expertise and knowledge that has been developed through trial, error and experience then handed down through the years.

 

Eddie and Ollie picking olives in Puglia

 

Families live closely, work together and spend a lot of time with each other just like we do. For us, it’s wonderful to be in a place where living such a way is so normal.

 

Tim picking olives

 

That this lifestyle is so natural here and is so relatable to how we live our lives is just one of the reasons we love Italy so much. Anyway, I digress…

 

joseph picking olives olive farm puglia

 

This particular olive farm has been in the family and producing high-quality olive oil since the 1700s. There are more than 700 varieties of olives in Italy alone but here they specialise in just two.

 

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The trees here range in age from a mere 20-years-old to a more established 500-years-old. On this farm, it takes two months to harvest the olives.

 

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Nets created a carpet upon the grass beneath the trees. Across the way, workers were climbing ladders and using machines to pick the olives. We would be using more traditional methods of manual labour.

 

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Marta showed the children how to harvest the olives from the trees, combing through the branches and allowing the olives to fall onto the nets below…

 

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The lower branches were soon well clear of olives…

 

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Dad was called upon to help reach the higher branches…

 

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The nets were then emptied into crates…

 

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…and transported to the mill.

 

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Time is of the essence. It is important that the olives are processed as quickly as possible in order to prevent fermentation or oxidation from occurring. Time for teamwork to transport the harvest!

 

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Once at the mill the olives are weighed before the olives are separated from the stems by machine.

 

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The olives then pass on from one machine to another…

 

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how olive oil is made in puglia

 

…where the process continues…

 

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…and they are washed…

 

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Nothing here goes to waste. The stems and anything that cannot be used in the oil is used as fuel.

 

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As well as olive oil other products are also created here on this family farm.

 

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The smell here is indescribable.

 

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There is nothing in the world like walking through an olive grove. To be surrounded with freshly harvested olives is a definite aromatic treat.

 

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Once washed and sorted the olives make their way here…

 

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It is in this machine that they are crushed…

 

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The extraction process takes 20 to 30 minutes to complete…

 

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…after which time the rewards of another year of labour are finally found…

 

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…in the form of liquid gold…

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…and its additional treasures…

 

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The secrets to recognising a high-quality olive oil were revealed, a process that relies not on machinery but on taste and aroma.

 

how is olive oil made experience puglia tourango

 

The award-winning quality of the produce here is credited to their organic farming methods used. No pesticides, no harmful chemicals – just old-fashioned natural farming techniques that have withstood the test of time.

 

olio merico awards

 

After an enjoyable morning’s work it was time to savour the fruits of our labour…

 

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Lunch is served!

 

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As if you need any more to enjoy, guests are treated to a delicious selection of homemade dishes from the region.

 

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To be in such wonderful company with the most incredible food served right here on the farm is the icing on the cake for this terrific experience. And to top it all off, Marta showed us how to create a simple but delicious dessert from olive oil, ricotta cheese and sugar. And yes, the ricotta was also homemade.

 

marta making dessert with olive oil

 

What an incredible day!

 

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Want to see more? Watch our day unfold and our family’s appearance on Italian television’s Terre del Salento:

 

 

Our tour is one of more than 200 bespoke experiences that Puglian tour company touranGo! arranges for visitors in order to share the very best that Puglia has to offer through human interaction. To arrange your experience in Puglia contact Marialba and the touranGo! team at www.tourango.it.

 

Post brought to you in collaboration with touranGo!

 

 

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