15 Oct

Lebanese Southern farmers flock to olive groves as harvest season kicks off

By Mohammed Zaatari,

With the start of the autumn olive-picking season in Lebanon, farmers in the South flocked to their olive groves Monday in order to gather the fruit and ensure provisions for the upcoming year. In the village of Tanbourit near Sidon, Umm Abdo Sawma expressed satisfaction over this year’s crop.

“We have a great crop this season,” she told The Daily Star as she removed leaves from a batch of olives. “God bless this season,” she added.

Sawma’s neighbor, Umm Toufic Chalhoub, noted that olives formed an essential part of  Lebanese cuisine.

“Olive oil is also a key ingredient in most traditional Lebanese foods,” she told The Daily Star. “The benefits and taste of olives are more treasured by village residents than city dwellers,” she added while striking olive seeds with a stone in preparation for their consumption.

“Hitting olives with a stone is a very common practice used to create pores in the seeds in order for vinegar to leak into them,” she explained.

While most farmers continue to harvest their olive crops in the traditional manners – either by climbing a ladder and picking the olives one by one, or by shaking the fruit from the branches of trees or even hitting them with a stick – others resort to the use of a more modern harvesting tool.

“The tool consists of a long pole with pincers and a collection cylinder. The pincers sever the olives from tree branches and the cylinder catches them as they fall,” Tayssir Ashmar, an owner of an olive orchard and mill, told The Daily Star.

According to Ashmar, the olive harvest in coastal regions begins in October and continues until November. “But in mountainous areas, the harvest season continues until December,” he added.

Ashmar said the Romans had initially brought the olive tree into our country, but “we also have another type of olive tree: the Italian tree that was brought into Lebanon 50 years ago. Lebanon embraces very old olive trees; some date back 500 years.”

Regarding prices, Ashmar said a kilo of “big” olives was sold at LL5,000 to LL6,000.

“The small olives are usually turned into oil. Every 70 kilos of seeds produce 16 kilos of oil,” he said. “The cost of a tank [20 liters] of olive oil is no less than $100.”

[Source] Click here

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