Olive oil is the token ingredient in every Tuscan dish
. It is important to know which olive oil is good, based on flavor and color. The olive oil in Tuscany
is known as one of the best. In Tuscany, the olive trees are carefully cultivated. The process of taking care of these trees is very lucrative. In late February, the soil is dug up around the trees and then fertilized. Pruning the trees takes place in March which is a labor filled activity done by using a hand-saw and pruning shears. The branches are then sprayed with copper sulphate. The harvest happens in late fall which can take many weeks to even months.
Credits: Katie Greenaway
The olives are picked when they are green but soon turn black as they ripen. There are some olives that stay the color green and are sweeter to the taste. Olives are harvested by hand since they don’t want to damage the trees. The raccolta
(the harvest) uses ladders to reach the higher parts of the trees that are leaned against the trunk of the tree. The olives are collected by spreading sheets (some are parachutes left over from World War II) beneath the trees. The olives then head to the stone mill worked once by mules, but now are operated by machines.
The oil right after being pressed is the best to consume and is labeled olio extra vergine di oliva
. When pressed the oil is a bright green color and has a great aroma and flavor. Using it on toasted bread is one of my favorites to do. The taste is so poignant because it is so new and fresh.
My favorite recipes
in the summer
contain delicious olive oil. I like to stick to a nice, fresh salad during the lunch hour since in Florence
is a boiling hot. Adding tomatoes, cipolla rossa di tropea
(tropea onion), cucumber and some ceci
(chickpeas). Drizzling over it olive oil with a small amount of balsamic vinegar.
If I want a quick snack, I will toast some Tuscan bread
, rub some aglio
(garlic) over the bread, then pour some olive oil over the top. If I feel like cutting up some fresh tomatoes, I will add them as well. Caprese salad
is another quick dish that uses olive oil. All you need are tomatoes, basil and fresh mozzarella. Add oil and salt to taste. Panzanella
is one of my other favorite dishes to make during the summer months
. I have already written a post on this blog
. To speak briefly about it, use day old bread, soak it and squeeze all the water out of it. Then add your favorite fresh veggies like tomatoes, red onions, cucumber and celery to name a few. Toss with Tuscan olive oil and red wine vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste.