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Culinary

Olive harvest on Lake Garda

4 min. reading time

Golden harvest in Europe’s northernmost growing region

In October, the olive harvest begins on Lake Garda. This is another highlight of the year that is celebrated with many events.

Grazie al mite clima mediterraneo, i caratteristici ulivi, alcuni dei quali hanno più di 100 anni, si sentono molto a casa qui. Con i loro tronchi nodosi e le foglie verde-argentee, caratterizzano il tipico paesaggio intorno al Lago di Garda, insieme a vigneti e limoneti, cipressi e cedri mediterranei, oleandri e palme. The shores of Lake Garda, especially those of the Garda Trentino region, are considered the northernmost olive-growing areas and the eastern shore is often called the “Riviera degli Ulivi” because many large olive groves stretch along the slopes of Monte Baldo.

Thanks to the mild Mediterranean climate, the characteristic olive trees, some of which are more than 100 years old, feel very much at home here. With their gnarled trunks and green-silvery leaves, they characterise the typical landscape around Lake Garda together with vineyards and lemon groves, Mediterranean cypresses and cedars, oleanders and palm trees.

Harvest by hand and cold pressing: Olio Extravergine Del Garda

Between October and November is harvest time, and whole families are currently harvesting their olive trees. In the past, harvesting was done by hand, but today mechanical equipment is also used. However, hand harvesting is still the most efficient method as the fruit is beaten or shaken from the tree and collected on large tarpaulins or cloths on the ground. They can then be taken quickly to the oil mill so that the ripe olives do not oxidise.

The cooperative operates a very well-known oil mill in San Felice del Benaco, only about twelve kilometres from Gardone Riviera. Since 1946, small producers have been bringing their olive harvest to the mill for pressing and selling their oil together. In addition to the cooperative’s oil, a small shop sells other olive products and a cosmetics line, as well as jams, honey, wine and cheese. All products on sale are locally produced, and some of them are also certified organic.

The oil mill of the “Cooperativa Agricola San Felice” only processes olives of its members from the cultivation area of Valtenesi and the lower Lake Garda area. A tour of the mill provides interesting insights into the creation of the most valuable agricultural product of Lago di Garda.

Cold-pressed and filtered, fresh olive oil is not only a delicacy but has been one of the basic healthy foods around the Mediterranean for centuries. A piece of good, fresh bread dipped in virgin olive oil from the new harvest, add a little salt, and you have an antipasto that is hard to beat in taste and simplicity! Most of the olives from the landscapes around Lake Garda are less suitable for direct consumption, but they make an excellent olive oil, rich in polyphenols and, therefore, very healthy.

After the harvest, the celebration: the olive oil festival in Castelletto di Brenzone 

The best and most pleasant way to see for yourself the quality of “Olio Extravergine d’Oliva del Garda” is to attend one of the many festivals that celebrate the end of the olive harvest on Lake Garda. The best known is the olive oil festival “Antica Fiera di Santa Caterina”, which is celebrated for a few days in November in Castelletto di Brenzone, surrounded by olive groves on the eastern shore of Lake Garda, and culminates on 25 November. During this traditional festival of St. Catherine, the focus is on the new olive oil, and many stalls offer regional specialities to taste and get to know. Such as the “Pan di Molche”, a sourdough bread baked with “Molche”, made from the pomace of the pressed olives, which tastes excellent and is only available at the time of the olive harvest.

Olio Extravergine d’Oliva del Garda: Highest quality with distinction 

The colour of the olive oil from Lake Garda ranges from green to intense and delicate yellow tones. The aroma is light to medium fruity; a sweet note is typical in the taste, with a light almond note in the finish. In addition, the oleic acid content is below 0.5%. 

Hot and dry summers, followed by a few rainy days in autumn, are said to guarantee very good olive oil, according to the experience of olive grove owners. Quite a few elderly Italians attribute their health to a daily spoonful of pure olive oil.

In general, the “Olio Extravergine d’Oliva del Garda” is considered to be an extremely high-quality olive oil, which not for nothing has been awarded the quality designation D. O. P (Denominazione d’Origine Protetta) for nothing.