Images of big juicy grapes, full of nutrients and slightly shriveled olives in a pile are a common sight during the fall in Croatia.
Months after the summer are a time when the year’s hard work pays off in the most beautiful way. Fall harvest is one of the most thrilling parts of the year for all Croatian residents. Friends and family get-togethers, commune activities and celebrations of harvested goods bring people closer together.
Timing is crucial
Cultivation of olive trees and vine has had a long tradition on Croatian grounds. It has fed families for centuries. When it comes to deciding when is the perfect time to pick the olives, opinions are divided. It is an inexhaustible topic for producers for olive growers. Good timing is of the biggest importance for making supreme olive oil. Depending on the temperature and the amount of sunshine emphasis is put on maturation process that gets the best out of each olive.
Family and friends get-togethers
Olive picking is a traditionally a wonderful family event. Olive growers traditionally rely on family and friends for help in the harvest season. In the end, it is a great gathering of loved ones united on a common cause. Friends who help are often “paid” in olive oil, which works nicely for everybody involved in the process.
The picking is done by hand because there’s still no mechanical process that can do a good job. The activity is very casual, people are singing, chatting, laughing and having fun. The harvest is actually ideal opportunity to catch-up with family and friends you haven’t seen in a long time. By the end of the day, everyone is quite tired but filled with positivity.
A fest usually follows and the last drops of last year’s olive oil are used.
Transmission of tradition
This is a great chance for the children to observe and learn the entire process of olive oil making, finding out about all the little tips and the tricks from their fathers or even grandfathers. Keeping these traditions alive is crucial for the next generations. True olive oil experts are as profound as oenologists and they monitor the color, density, aroma and the taste of the oil. Olive oil is a staple in Mediterranean cuisine and almost no meal can go without it. Olive oil represents all celestial and is often treated with respect and frugality.
Nectar of the Gods
During the first couple of weekends in October, while the wineries in Croatia prepare for harvesting and production of the new season’s wine, almost every household across Croatia is busy either picking their own or buying local grapes to make wine for their personal consumption over the next year. Domestic wine is very popular so whenever you visit someone’s home they will want you to try their wine.
Grapes are typically picked by hand and the wine is made using natural and traditional wine making methods without additives or preservatives, which makes the unique taste. Harvesting the grapes needs to be done with much care and dedication. Gentle treatment results in the wonderful wine, truly a nectar of the gods.
Good preparation is very important when it comes to producing wine. The barrels need to be carefully prepared and the cellar where the whole process takes place needs to be disinfected. Humidity and temperature also play an important role.
Everybody knows someone who owns a wine cellar so when the time comes friends and neighbors can bring their grapes over for further processing. Men are usually in charge or wine making and entertaining the guests while women serve food and chitchat amongst each other. Again, leftovers of the last year’s stock, if any, are drank and the new season’s wine is celebrated. Someone sometimes brings a guitar and the song can be heard well into the night.
Join the festivity
Joining traditional Croatian harvest activities is a great way to meet the locals and find out about their customs.
In September the days are no longer too hot and the colors of the green covered hills start to change. The atmosphere is very festive this time of year and it’s really worth a visit. Helping out in the field and taking home a bottle of pure olive oil or a bottle of wine you helped make can’t really compare to anything. Some villages organize harvest festivals where the producers present their hard work poured into glass containers. These festivals are truly enjoying and are also the feast for the eyes and the belly. Don’t miss it!
Author: Nikolina Dukic
Photo Credit: (1) Romulic and Stojcic, Croatia Tourist Board, (2) Damien Helleux Radermecker, (3) Tomislav Mavrovic, (4) Megan Cole