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11 November 2016

Olive harvest I

Harvestinig in the olive tree valley near the town of Gargalianoi

The olive harvest season is quite long around here. It starts as early as the beginning of October and it ends with the first days of February at the very latest. It is a very lively period for the area. Suddenly, after a busy tourism driven summer and a slow, relaxing September the olive groves of Messinia resonate again with fresh sounds. The “buzzing” starts at sunrise and resonates from all of the corners of Messinian olive tree valley. Almost every local has an olive tree to pick so next to the owners there is a flux of periodical workers coming to the area to help.

The local town scene gets very busy early at dawn, around 5:30 am, with bars serving to the harvesters coffee and seasonal “lalangides”: simple fritters fried in exquisite fresh olive oil and topped with “petimezi” (grapemust) or honey. The stores work on “olive harvest schedule” meaning if you find a store closed on a nice sunny day it can only mean that the owner is somewhere in the valley whirling and spreading nets around his beautiful olive trees.

Suddenly on the usually empty roads there is some traffic with pick up tracks carring sacks with freshly picked olives to one of the many local olive oil mills. White smoke rises above the valley here and there from the multiple bond fires where burning the branches of the olive trees which were trimmed in the process of harvesting.

There are three kinds of olive trees here: "Kalamata olives" and the other two predominat types, “koroneiki” (took up its name from a historical town of Koroni) which is used for olive oil production and “mavroelia”(black olive) used as edible fruit. They both have a rather small size olive fruits, nothing like the famous Kalamata olives, which by the way is the region’s capital.
The quality and the taste of the olive oil is superb and almost 100% of the production is extra virgin.

This season's crop has been quite abundant, one of the best in decades, as opposed two years back when the blooming olive tree flowers have been destroyed by Sahara winds leaving the trees barren.

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