If you think about Gargano, in Puglia, the association with Vieste it’s immediate. Vieste is the most famous city on this stretch of coastline mostly due to the various activities that Vieste offers, including: cycling and hiking in the Gargano National Park; water sports; the magnificent beaches to soak up southern Italian sun and relax; and lastly of course the famous Pizzomunno to admire, the symbol of the city. Vieste, however, this is only a fraction of what’s on offer.
In addition to the famous beaches, this charming city of Puglia also offers an ancient and fascinating food culture, in particular olive oil. And it is precisely this product that we will discussing today, the production of oil in Vieste: from the olive tree to the table.
Oil production in Vieste
Vieste is the home of one of the most famous kind of oils in the Gargano: the Ogliarola Garganica, which derives from the homonymous plant and has a fascinating process of preparation. Specifically, there are three phases that the olive must go through to get from the olive tree to the table.
The olive harvesting in the olive trees
The first phase of oil production is the harvest of the raw material, the olives. For this phase, it’s necessary to go outside Vieste to see the hectares of olive trees, to harvest as many olives as possible. In Puglia, especially in the Gargano region, there are thousands and thousands of olive trees, some of which are even centuries old and truly impressive and majestic.
Olive harvesting is a long process that is apparently is easy and not tiring. The reality is, it involves constant work, combined with strength and sweat, and that for these reasons it is carried out mostly by men. Although in the olive groves where we visited we did see some women.
The first process to harvest, the nets are placed at the foot of the olive trees, ready to collect the olives that fall from their trees. There are two techniques used to drop olives from olive trees.
The first is to use a sort of tractor equipped with a huge metal grip, able to grasp the tree and shake it without damaging it, but dropping a large quantity of olives.
The second technique consists in combing with a long electric rake, called “comb”, passes through the branches of the tree to make the olives fall to the ground. A very effective method, used especially after it has passed first with the tractor. Among other things, it is a less tiring method than old fashioned method of climbing the trees to pick olives, which can also ruin the trees.
Once the olives fall into the nets, they are collected and loaded onto the trucks in special boxes; Direction: oil mill.
The passage in the oil mill
The second passage is perhaps the most important and cathartic one. The olives are taken to various reference mills, where they undergo various processes before being turned into oil. Initially, olives are divided into “batches” and placed in boxes that are then weighed on special scales.
After that the boxes are emptied into the hopper and the olives are washed and brought into the “deramofogliatrice” that removes the impurities for other purposes, because, as explained by the employees present at the mill: “nothing is throw away from olive tree”.
Afterwards, the olives enter properly in the mill, where they are processed according to the traditional method with stone mills and cold pressing, or with the most modern machines in a continuous cycle. It depends on the request of customers.
Inside the crusher, the olives can be either crushed or blended with the stone, or you can remove the stone from the olives and then work it until it becomes “pellet”. The pulp of the olives, on the other hand, is the part used to properly produce the oil, which is collected in large final tanks and then left to ferment until the extra virgin oil we all know is obtained.
Oil on the table: more than a flavoring, a real food
This is how we arrive at the last phase of the oil production process, the one in which the final product reaches the table, not as a simple flavouring, but as a real food. People who live in Puglia, in fact, are keen to underline how the Ogliarola Garganica should be considered on a par with a classic course and its tasting, as well as its combination, is essential.
The Ogliarola Garganica, in fact, usually shows a greenish color. The fragrance of the olives is very well perceived on the nose, while during the tasting it has a fruity and sweet aftertaste. A genuine and healthy product that can not only be used and tasted on bruschetta, pasta, fish or meat, but also has value on its own, tasting it with a simple spoon.