Written by Olivetta
The art of olive growing in the Murgia Dei firm: a treasure for the north-Bari area
Work and tradition mingle in the custom of the olive harvest
Puglia is the Italian region that praises the national record for oil production. Despite the variables determined by weather conditions, drought, and the latest effects of Xylella, every year Puglia manages to reach almost 50% of all the oil produced in Italy.
In fact, it’s not by chance that exactly the olive tree dominates on the Apulian flag, as a symbol of the entire region. To put it in official numbers, the olive groves from Capitanata to Salento extend over an area of over 350,000 hectares, which correspond to over 60 million plants.
This large presence of olive groves results in a wide variety of cultivars that extend into the Apulian subregions, characterising its landscape. Specifically, in Puglia it is possible to find various cultivar: Ogliarola (or Cima) di Bitonto, Ogliarola Garganica, Ogliarola Leccese, Cellina di Nardò, Cima di Mola (Olivastra and Leccina), Coratina, Peranzana, Bella di Cerignola, each with its own organoleptic, aesthetic and taste characteristics.
In particular, the olive trees present in the northern Bari area of the monocultivar Coratina variety record a high production yield, which contrasts with the irregularity in the production of the different vintages. The strong point of the Coratina cultivar is precisely its yield, defined premature, which starts already in the first years of the olive tree’s life.
The olive trees have been in the background of our landscapes for centuries, becoming the protagonists of events and emotions. However, is not just the environment to experience the influence of this plant: the social, economic, and cultural life of the region is strongly linked to the olive trees and to the precious oil that is obtained from it, so much so that it represents an important sector of employment.
The Olive Harvest in Puglia
The olive harvest in Puglia is a collective event that involves all communities with an agricultural vocation. It begins in the first days of Autumn when the morning air becomes humid and cold, and it continues throughout the months of October and November, sometimes lasting until January.
The harvesting period is the moment in which the effort and work of a whole year find their full realization, rewarding olive growers with olives that they can transform into the refined extra virgin olive oil.
Besides being a job, harvesting olives in Puglia is a real tradition that is passed down from generation to generation that does not only involve farms but entire families. Anyone who owns a small farm or a small plot of land engages in harvesting works, often aimed at oil production for domestic needs.
The number of trees available defines also the type of harvest: manual, the oldest and most traditional, or mechanical, the most modern one that includes the use of olive shaker systems.
The Coratina cultivar requires particular expedients, intended to guarantee an excellent quality of the oil produced. In fact, the harvest for this variety takes place in November, when the olive hasn’t reached yet full ripeness, by preferring a lower production in quantitative terms, but better at the qualitative and organoleptic level. This process s facilitated by the use of olive shaker systems, that is tools that simplify the fall of the drupes onto nets, commonly called “panni”, previously arranged on the ground.
The secret for reaching the apotheosis of the olive balance is milling. The dedication towards our land is such as to motivate us to mill olives in twenty-four hours since the harvesting moment. Not by chance, one of the most common problems linked to the production of the Coratina oil is the time-lapse that passes from harvesting to milling, as very long times can increase the acidity of the product by damaging the quality of the oil. With this process, a pressed oil paste is obtained until an oily liquid is formed.
Later, there is the pressing aimed at dividing the different components. The fruits obtained from the coratina cultivar prefer a cold pressing and to do this it is necessary to keep the temperature, during the different phases of working, within 27 degrees. Only in this way, we can enjoy all the organoleptic and antioxidant substances, while at the same time exalting the olive taste, at the expense of a greater amount of oil produced.
An equally delicate phase is that of settling, which consists in resting the oil in a container able to keep the fundamental oil properties unaltered. This phase is followed by recurring filtrations and pouring, controlling phenomena linked to rancidity.
Coratina oil grown in the northern area of Bari and produced by our firm, Murgia Dei, is the son of the traditions and for this reason, its preservation still takes place today, as in the past, in ceramic amphorae which preserve the oil and its peculiarities.
Safeguarding of the land and its traditions
The territory of northern Bari is since ancient times a generous area that offers citizens and tourists its best fruits. We try to protect our land by safeguarding it from potential degradations. For this reason, we adopt the practice of “grassing”: we let the grass grow spontaneously around our trees and then cut it and leave it on the ground to decompose, thus nourishing the ecosystem present on the ground itself by increasing the organic fraction.
The gentle giant: the centuries-old olive tree guardian of time
In the northern area of Bari, specifically in the Alta Murgia area, there is a thousand-year-old olive tree that covers with its majestic crown all the territory, creating a suggestive atmosphere. It is an olive tree measuring 7.90 meters in circumference with a height comparable to a three-floor building. The giant of Corato produces about 200 kg of olives of the Coratina monocultivar. With every taste, this precious oil brings to life centuries of history and culture.
It is difficult to collocate its existence over a period of time, even though it is most likely the ancestor of the Coratina variety of oil. Nobody can hug the tree trunk alone, but the union of at least four people is necessary. The latter is a curious detail: its presence symbolises the strength and effort required for the care of the Coratino olive tree.
The centuries-old olive tree, by virtue of its position, creates a union with its historical and cultural meaning, by becoming a manifesto of the olive-oil tourism, aimed at re-evaluating the centuries-old olive trees and the productions derived from it. By doing so, justice is done to a history of dedication and responsibility.
From extra virgin olive oil to gastronomic wedding favours
The abundance of olives and consequently of oil, above all in the last years, represents a propulsive thrust for the Apulian economy. More and more olive growers are entering the national and international market by proposing both oil and some of its uses. The gastronomic wedding favours are an example.
The gastronomic or food wedding favours are characterised by the presence of edible elements that create or accompany the wedding favours. The idea of the Olivetta wedding favours was born from our firm Murgia Dei, typical Apulian terracotta jars with extra virgin olive oil inside.
We grow our olives in the countrysides of the city of Corato, in the province of Bari, in that area of Puglia known as Alta Murgia. The olive groves are located in a prestigious position in an area situated within walking distance between the Murgia elevations and the influences coming from the nearby Adriatic coasts.
From the olive-growing point of view, this part of Puglia is characterised by the main presence of olives of Cultivar Coratina, one of the most appreciated and renowned by extra virgin olive oil consumers and fans.
Coratina oil is one of the oldest and enduring varieties that are in our territory, thanks to the resistance characteristic. Thus, the Coratino olive tree is suitable for natural productions which do not involve the use of chemicals, by becoming the symbol of a healthy and sustainable lifestyle.
The olive tree we find on the area of Corato is the protagonist of our landscapes: despite having medium sizes, it emerges for its crown, which extends in length, and for ramifications as short as thick, bearer of old traditions and stories.
Coratina oil has a strong personality and for this reason, in the past, it was considered a “cutting oil”, so it was used to give consistency and body to more delicate and less intense oils. Today, it is precisely these unique characteristics that make the oil sought-after and appreciated even outside the Apulian region.
The Corato oil cultivar, even known as Cima di Corato or Racioppa di Corato, is suitable for those consumers who confer an added value to olive oil to give to different dishes or for special events.
The resulting product is in fact a yellow-green oil, with a very intense and fruity flavour and a bitter and sometimes typically spicy aftertaste, due to the high presence of polyphenols. The smell evokes distant memories, the flavour of raw olives and almonds.
Olivetta between art and gastronomy
The agricultural vocation of the northern Bari area, the annual production of extra virgin olive oil and the growing attention to a healthy and safe diet and the fame that accompanies the whole of Puglia, have inspired us to create a product capable of combining all of these elements bringing extra virgin olive oil into a very different context such as that of weddings.
Our is a gastronomic and agricultural wedding favour as the terracotta jar was one of the most common utensils in the countryside and the oil contained in it has always been a fundamental element of the Apulian culture and society.
It’s no accident that the first Olivetta we introduced on the gastronomic wedding favours market is coloured green and purple to look like real olives when they are ready to be harvested.
Since the beginning of the Olivetta project, the aim has always been to enhance the agricultural identity of the wedding favour that can be seen from its shape. The design of the jar traces the shape of an olive and is always recognisable even in the most recent collections, coloured and decorated with more modern styles.
The strong territorial connotation at the base of the Olivetta gastronomic wedding favour determines the importance of olive harvesting, a miracle of nature that renews for us every year. A long-awaited and desired moment that not only supports the economy of our agricultural firm, but it constitutes the essence of the gastronomic wedding favour that we affectionately and sweetly decided to call Olivetta.
November is also the harvest month for our olive groves. In this period, a tradition long generation, before we practised by many other people of our territory, is renewed. It is just at this moment that the young wine is born, which will fill the Olivetta’s jar that the spouses will give to the guests of their wedding.