November 1, Molos, Paros, Greece
It sounded like a great idea - a housewarming for my friend, yoga teacher Tassos, with all-day olive picking, brunch, dinner and music thrown in. We all had a great day and really felt like we'd worked hard. I have concluded - it's the ultimate 'don’t-miss experience' to offer a feeling of connection with the land in the beautiful Greek countryside.
It also sounded like an idyllic lazy day. The reality was something entirely different. Around seventy or eighty mature specimens of the sacred olive tree, and 20 or so of us harvesting all of them in one day was a tall order. I don't think we managed half. But it was a great social day out in the elements as well as a learning experience. First, we unrolled enormous green nets under the trees to catch the falling olives. Then, we each took hold of a small plastic hand-rake and got started. the idea is to drag the rakes over the leaves and separate out the olives from the tree, which then fall onto the nets on the ground. You move from one tree to another with some raking and others using ladders with more sophisticated machinery to reach the higher yield. You do this again and again until there are no more olives left. It’s catharsis, incredibly grounding and lots of fun too.
Brunch came just at the right time. Fresh bread and cheese, flans and fritatas. With Greek coffee, of course. The cake came at the mid afternoon break.
As the sun began to cast its long shadows, we were done. With sack fulls of olives ready to go to a nearby olive press to have the oil extracted, there was no time to lose. These local olive presses can be found all over the Greek countryside and there are a few on Paros, including a local one to me in Kamari. Once delivered, the olives are washed and the leaves shaken out on conveyor belts before being pressed for oil. They still use large stone mills to grind the olives, though these are generally now electronically operated rather than donkey-powered. Each mill has its own system of payment – some take cash, I'm told; others accept a portion of your olive oil harvest as payment.
One of my favourite days on Paros so far.. Matt and I even managed an hour's escape to walk to nearby Molos beach for a wonderful refreshing swim in clear waters.
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