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Olio di Penne harvest 2017

The olive harvest has just finished. Not a good harvest, as the yield was too low, but the quality is excellent and prices have risen to their highest level ever, so there is a sense of buoyancy from the farmers. What they lost in overall production they have partially regained in the value of the oil produced.

This year we had friends come over from the UK to help us: 20 or so in relays; so pleasing to see how many of them really enjoyed the experience, matched by offers to come back next year. We had a great time with fabulous weather: sunshine almost every day, working in temperatures in the mid 20s. But it was hard work!

The oil is now with the shippers, all sold before it is even gets back to the UK. If you are not a customer do ask about next year’s shipment. It is a truly unique experience to taste oil that is this fresh. Extra virgin, single estate, cold pressed from castiglionese olives. A far cry from supermarket oil. You would be amazed at the difference and may have noted recent press articles about how much of what you think is Italian Extra Virgin Olive oil is actually something else entirely. There is a lot of fraud in this industry.

We are in the final year of transition to organic – although in truth the oil has always been produced without spraying, using organic fertilizer. Next year we will be able to market our oil as organic, which is pleasing.

As the harvest came to an end I was invited out to an evening with some male friends. 10 men, all but myself locals. We met at the house of Paulo and spent the next evening talking and laughing as we slowly cooked and ate, with most of the men taking it in turns to cook a dish, or if not cook, to add a healthy measure of advice to those who did. 5 hours of eating, all fish! It really struck me that an

evening such as this could never happen in the UK. A dinner party in a mixed group, yes. Out with male friends, yes, but that would be to a pub, maybe a curry and some might even venture to a nightclub. 10 men in a house all cooking together and all as passionate as each other about the food, impossible to imagine. And this is not unique in any way. They do this regularly and they are not alone. They have a passion for food deep in their culture that we have lost, if we ever had it.

And now as I return to the UK I am helping Phil Haughton, Founder of the Better Food Company, promote some of the local oil and passata from Abruzzo that he is importing from the Ferrante family. The family are coming over this month and we are holding a foodie extravaganza on the 24th November. This will be a truly unique evening of the most genuine and unusual rural cooking that you are likely to come across. I will be helping in the kitchen. Unfortunately it is sold out but maybe Phil will hold a repeat in the new year.

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