` Harvesting Under the Moon

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Harvesting Under the Moon

Oct. 28, 2013
By Luciana Squadrilli

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Olive har­vesters in Italy are get­ting busy despite the hap­haz­ard weather con­di­tions, with rain­falls and cold in North­ern and Cen­tral regions and almost sum­mer-like tem­per­a­tures in the South. The high tem­per­a­tures caused oper­a­tions to stop for some days, to pre­vent spoil­ing of the olives. Beside mak­ing the pick­ing harder, high tem­per­a­tures can ruin the har­vest, often caus­ing fusty or mouldy olive oil as a final prod­uct. This is what hap­pens when olives are stored for long time before being processed, caus­ing an anaer­o­bic fer­men­ta­tion that wastes them; the longer they stay, the worse it gets, and if it is warm the fer­men­ta­tion goes quicker.

Accord­ing to experts and grow­ers, envi­ron­men­tal tem­per­a­ture can also affect the olive oil inten­sity and other aro­matic fea­tures. Dur­ing the early pick­ing of olives in Ugento and the sur­round­ings — an area blessed with sunny weather and warm tem­per­a­tures almost all year long — the fruit’s tem­per­a­ture after it’s been pulled reaches and exceeds 27°C (80.6°F) both before the press­ing and dur­ing the pro­cess­ing, thus void­ing what the cur­rent reg­u­la­tions define as cold extrac­tion.”

An orig­i­nal solu­tion was pro­posed by the olive farm Forestaforte, in Ugento, a small vil­lage in Apu­lia whose econ­omy is mostly based on agri­cul­ture and wine and oil pro­duc­tion. Run by Gio­vanni Mel­carne, on the 16th Octo­ber the Forestaforte olive­yard hosted a night olive har­vest. Hav­ing been already imple­mented for the wine grapes har­vest in Sicily, the night pick­ing was an absolute inno­va­tion for olive har­vest­ing in Italy. This was not only a pro­mo­tional ini­tia­tive, but also had a sci­en­tific pur­pose.

This was the core of the research project launched by Coldiretti Lecce (the local branch of the National Grow­ers Fed­er­a­tion) together with the Uni­ver­sity of Salento, the Insti­tute of Sci­ences of Food Pro­duc­tion (ISPA-CNR), the Mul­ti­lab of the local Cham­ber of Com­merce, the Uni­ver­sity of Peru­gia and Unaprol, that was pre­sented in Ugento dur­ing a con­fer­ence about the new Com­mon Agri­cul­tural Pol­icy and its effects on olive oil pro­duc­tion in Apu­lia and Salento. The con­fer­ence was held at the New Archae­l­og­i­cal Museum of Ugento and also fea­tured the speeches by: Mas­simo Gargano, Unaprol (“The ter­ri­tory as an asset”); Pietro San­dali, Coldiretti (“The new CAP 2014 – 2020 does not dam­age extra vir­gin olive oil”); prof. Mau­r­izio Servili, Uni­ver­sity of Peru­gia (“New tech­no­log­i­cal approachs to Ital­ian high qual­ity olive oils”); Carmelo But­tazzo, Apu­lia Olive Grow­er’s Asso­ci­a­tion (“Exper­i­men­ta­tion in the field”).

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High tem­per­a­tures occur­ring dur­ing the day,” explained Pan­ta­leo Pic­cinno, Chair­man of Coldiretti Lecce, can deter­mine a loss of scents in the oil. But those scents, along with organolep­tic fea­tures, can be pre­served with a night har­vest at lower tem­per­a­tures. With this ambi­tious exper­i­men­ta­tion we want to raise the bar of qual­ity, to strengthen in the col­lec­tive imag­i­na­tion the asso­ci­a­tion between Apu­lia, the land between two seas, and the high qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil.”

The night har­vest, that also hosted a tast­ing of local prod­ucts and freshly pressed extra vir­gin olive oil, took place in one of the olive groves of Forestaforte named Cis­terna del Serpe” (Snake’s Cis­tern). It was a moment knowl­edge-shar­ing and expe­ri­ence, but also an impor­tant step in research. Sev­eral sam­ples will be col­lected dur­ing the night har­vests, in dif­fer­ent con­di­tions, aim­ing to test — both the chem­i­cal and sen­sory aspects — the evo­lu­tion of the aromatic/volatile ele­ments often lack­ing in the local extra vir­gin oils obtained from early-har­vested olives. The strat­egy could serve as an exam­ple for other Ital­ian and inter­na­tional olive oil pro­duc­ers.



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