The first serious bout of winter rain descended several weeks ago, marking a traditional and unofficial opening of the olive harvest season in the Galilee. In fact, late September is too early for olive picking, which generally extends from late October through November. But that first rain fulfilled its function of washing off the summer dust from the ripening fruit, and giving it an extra plumping of moisture. Hopefully there will be at least one more significant rainfall before the harvest starts in earnest.
The serious work of harvesting olives is to produce olive oil – that staple commodity that keeps every Mediterranean kitchen running smoothly. To produce quality oil, ideally, half of the olives should still be green and the rest black (that is, fully ripe).
These days, our walks are focused on checking the status of our favorite olive trees. Scattered in different places around the moshav, each tree bears fruit according to some larger scheme that we can only wonder at. Some trees are thick with pale green clusters, weighing down the branches even as the silvery drab leaves point skywards all the way up to their highest branches; others have heavily laden branches, but only on one side of the tree, and some have no fruit at all. The olives may be fat or demure, but they are all, at this point, still green.
And for us, this is the time for our own modest harvest, to produce a year’s supply of cured green olives for our family and friends. Ever since I came to this place, we’ve alwasy picked olives from the same two trees – planted by the German Templars in the early 1900s – fine specimens of the local Tsuri variety. And it was from those two trees that we filled two buckets – a pleasant couple of hours spent enveloped within their branches.
- The Cracking Machine Ron and Jarjoura Kanaza
After a day while they were submerged in water, Ron and I took our olives to Nazareth, to the El Babour Spice Mill, to crack them in their cracking machine. In years past, we used to sit for hours, knocking each olive with a stone to crack its skin so the brine could penetrate. And then one day I saw the olive cracking machine in action, and I knew that I wouldn’t be stooped over a stone and running after rolling olives anymore. I’m all in favor of tradition, but this is one innovation I am happy to adopt, particularly when its an excuse to visit the wonderful Kanaza brothers at El Babour.