A bottle of Extra virgin olive oil is the final act of a story that begins in the olive grove. Unlike other products, extra virgin olive oil is an olive juice to which nothing is added. For this, plant care is the basis of the final quality.
For this reason, Extra virgin olive oil makes a difference and must be chosen with great care and knowledge.
On our journey to discover the Portuguese Vacinata Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Marco Ramos, owner of the family business, talks about the seasons of his olive grove.
The care and work that an olive grove requires throughout the twelve months of the year is remarkable and not always known. Without such attention it would be impossible to obtain a sustainable, organic EVOO with an intense taste capable of expressing the flavors and aromas of the territory.
Vacinata is all this and the guarantee is given by the work of an entire family over the course of the Four Seasons, as Marco tells us.
Even the work of the olive groves follows the seasons, just like it happens for the vineyards. Of course, there are seasons that are more intense than others but the olive grower does not work only during the harvesting phase, as non-experts believe.
Winter and spring: how does your work fit into these two seasons?
Winter is the time for pruning the olive trees: it is a very important phase because it will give space for the future branches to develop. Consequently, it has a direct impact on the “performance” of the tree in terms of quantity of fruits. The idea of pruning the tree is to “open” the tree, to give the possibility for every branch to get light and, therefore, to grow and maximize the number of fruits. Also, we try to cut the old branches to give space to the new ones that are stronger and will give more fruits. We do this task on Winter because it will give time for the trees to heal and be ready for Spring!
Spring is the time for the trees to blossom. It’s key because from the flower will appear the fruits. So, we can’t do anything to avoid wind, rain or hail that will make the flowers fall. Nevertheless, we can give the trees some natural nutrients (organic nutrients) to strengthen the flowers.
It is also the time for ploughing the soil and creating an organic layer with specific herbs and flowers. Indeed, after analyzing the soil and seeing what is missing, we carefully choose the herbs and flowers that will feed the soil with the right components according to its mineral deficiencies. This new layer creates a fauna that would enrich the soil. Finally, this green layer allows the water in the ground instead of going straight to down too fast.
What problems does summer reveal for an olive grower and what work does he do this season, especially with current climate changes?
During Summer, the main problems are the heat and the lack of water. Our almost unique responsibility is to hydrate the olive groves. To do this efficiently, we take into consideration the humidity of the soil and our resources. The trick is to balance these 2 so that we can keep “feeding” the trees without finishing our water resources.
Over the years, this is a growing problem, so we try to find solutions. The first we are implementing is the organic layer which will be planted next Spring, a layer that, as I said, retains the water and humidity longer in the soil. We have more projects to come in order to make improvements, but are still at study to decide which are the most efficient.
Finally, autumn, harvest time and more. How are the works planned for this season?
We must be constantly monitoring the fields, on a daily basis, to see how the olives are evolving and try to estimate the best moment to harvest. Indeed, as we produce a green fruity, we have to be aware of the growing of the fruits without having too many olives turning red in order to keep authentic green aromas in the olive oil. In order to harvest the right way, we have to be flexible and have our harvesting team ready because we can start from a week to another. And, especially for the green fruity we produce, once we start, it has to be quick in order to avoid olives to mature. Also, through the monitoring we do, we are aware of the olive groves that are more advanced than the others and then we can prioritize one from the other in terms of timing.
As we have our own olive oil mill, we have another kind of planning. Our mill team has to prepare the mill by doing the pre-campaign cleaning : we already cleaned all the machines at the end of the previous campaign but we still have to “polish” it just before the first olives to be transformed. Indeed, several months passed and some impurities appeared. But we also need to have all the machines ready to work and all spare parts available in case of emergency: we play our year in just a few weeks so we have no room for mistakes.