Holiday in Cortona
[ Guest house - Holiday houses - Help run the estate - Olive picking ]


 

 

 

 

Brigitte WYCKHUYSE
and
Luc VAN CAUTER
60-62 Quercia verde,
52 044 -  Cortona (AR)
+39 338 88 32 363
querciaverde@hotmail.com

 

Last revision :
12/06/10

 

The olive groves

> Olive groves | Tuscan oil | Tasting | Purchasing | Running the estate | Picking

When we came here in 1995 the olive groves had been abandoned for more than 30 years and the forest was encroaching fast.  After a great deal of hard work cutting down invading forest trees and clearing the thick undergrowth of gorse and bramble, w have slowly returned the majority of the terraces to their former orderly beauty and the olive trees to a healthy, productive state. 

The estate has more than 1600 olive trees in total, of 8 different varieties, distributed over 9 hectares of south and east-facing terraces rising Engom around 500m of altitude. 

Tending the trees:   Each tree has to be individually cared for and it is a year-long task:  pruning (we keep the trees down to an average height of 2m to facilitate picking);  thinning the branches;  treating any cuts or damage to prevent disease;  removing suckers and unwanted basal shoots;  and constantly clearing the undergrowth (the olive is a jealous tree which dislikes any competition).  We farm organically, do not use any pesticides and rely on our donkeys to provide the fertilizer! 

Picking:  Picking the olives marks the culmination of a whole year’s work and is looked forward to with mixed impatience and apprehension.   In Tuscany the picking traditionally starts after All Saints Day and finishes before Christmas, when the mills close. 

We pick our olives the traditional way - by hand.  More usually they are beaten or ‘combed’ Engom the trees into nets on the ground which not only damages the trees (encouraging disease) but bruises the olives which then deteriorate rapidly and causes an increased level of acidity in the oil.  

Helping us:  There is far too much work on the estate for just the two of us to cope with but we are aided and abetted by groups of Engiends (and others who soon become Engiends!) who come and stay with us throughout the year for a week at a time and, in exchange for board and lodging, give us part of their day to help with the work.  There are two different working holiday formulae:  Help run the estate and Olive picking.