Il Cibo Italiano (2)
1. Italy produces a lot of olive oil. Olives and olive oil are a very important part of the Italian diet.
L'olivo = the olive tree L'oliva = the olive
L'olivetto = the olive grove
2. In Tuscany, in the area of Magliano, there grows a magical olive tree. It is believed to be over three thousand years old! It is known as 'The Witch's Olive Tree' ( L'Olivo della Strega).
This tree has always attracted a lot of attention and witches used to gather around it, believing that the tree had special powers.
3. Traditionally, olives are first picked on the 1st of November. This date is All Saints' Day - il giorno d' Ognissanti in Italian.
The period of their harvest lasts until mid-December.
To make olive oil, the olives are pressed. The oil produced from the first pressing is considered the best, with the strongest flavour. It is called 'Extra Virgin' - meaning that it is the purest form of the oil.
4. The land where olive trees grow must be kept very clean. At the time of the harvest, the olive-pickers lay down netting on the ground underneath the trees.
There are two ways in which to pick olives:-
A. Special machinery clasps the branches and vibrates, causing the olives to fall. They drop onto the fine netting which is then lifted, trapping the olives but letting other unwanted particles fall through the net to the ground.
B. Instead of using machinery, you pick them by hand, standing on a ladder if you cannot reach.
(Photo of olives, from Wikimedia Commons.)
5. Olive oil is used in most Italian cookery. A popular and simple way to eat spaghetti is to toss it in olive oil with finely chopped garlic and chilli pepper. This dish is called Spaghetti all'aglio, olio e peperoncino. It is very quick and easy to prepare!
An interesting fact: one of the most famous Italian makes of electronic goods, such as computers, is called Olivetti. This name actually means 'olive groves.'