Nov 17, '21
Featured in 12th edition of Luxeat Insider

Tragedy and joy: the tale of an olive grove in Corsica

By Pascale Migozzi

Oliu Di E SERRE is the name of my olive oil. Before telling you more about it, I will go back in time to tell you my story, because there are no new adventures without big changes. As part of Luxeat’s series on outstanding produce from around the world, I’ll tell you the story of my olive oil, and all that it means to me. 

At the beginning of my professional life, I was a passionate pharmacist, overworked and laden with a family history spanning four generations. I was passionate because I could take care of others, listen to them, advise them, and heal them. Then, at the dawn of my 40s, I suddenly decided I wanted to enjoy life with my husband who had supported me throughout these long years. So, I left for Corsica, to find my roots and my family, with the view of taking one or two years off and finding a new activity close to nature.

Working on the land is very rewarding, you learn hard work, in the truest sense of the word.

A few months later, a tragedy shattered our sweet dream. A drunk and speeding man killed my husband during a bike ride with friends. This was a time of mourning, of trials, of fighting alongside my lawyers for eight and a half years.

Three years after this tragedy, some very dear friends rented me a plot of land in the middle of their vineyard, and I started this great and beautiful adventure of farming! Choosing the olive tree was obvious to me, don’t ask me why. Maybe I had talked about it with my husband… the symbolism of the tree… the attraction I had always had to this tree… I don’t know.

After two years of planting, my little trees started to produce olives! What happiness and pride to harvest these 63,4 kg of olives on my 800 trees, the first production and first litres of oil!

Working on the land is very rewarding, you learn hard work, in the truest sense of the word: physical work, digging, pulling up grass; humility in the face of climatic events that, in a few minutes, can devastate a field with a hailstorm, wind or torrential rain; and above all, you learn patience – watching your tree grow, a few new leaves appearing, the fruit slowly developing. It’s the real school of life.

Inevitably, in 5 years, like all farmers, I have experienced a bit of everything. Still, we always leave with one more lesson, more courage, and the desire to do well.

I can’t tell you which period I liked the most in this vegetative cycle. Winter, a period of rest for the trees, when they sleep and regain their strength. Nature freezes for a moment with the cold. It’s a bit like pressing the “pause” button. Pruning is a very important moment in the life of the tree that is going to produce, because it allows us to give it a shape to facilitate picking, but above all to get rid of the useless branches and pump energy towards the future fruit-bearing branches.

Winter, a period of rest for the trees, when they sleep and regain their strength. Nature freezes for a moment with the cold. It’s a bit like pressing the “pause” button.

Spring is when nature wakes up! At this stage, the tree needs to be given a nutritional supplement to help it restart its natural cycle, producing new shoots and producing the future flowers that will give us our beautiful fruits. Summer is a time of great vigilance! It is necessary to irrigate the tree correctly, bring it some nutrients and especially, to watch over our precious fruits because from the end of June until the harvest, the fly attacks on the orchards can be frightening and ruin the production, however well it’s been cultivated until that point. 

Autumn. The period that closes a year of work with this magical moment, the harvest. I want to pick up most of my olives by hand because it is a great pleasure to touch these wonderful fruits. At the same time, I don’t alter them by mechanical means, which allows me to have a high quality extra virgin olive oil. It is also a great pleasure to see the excitement in the field, because all year round I am almost alone: for the brief time of harvest we have farm workers, relatives and friends, everyone pitches in. This little world meets for a time of sharing and conviviality. I have to admit that it is also a stressful period. We want to harvest quickly since the weather begins to be uncertain at this time of year.

For me, Autumn is the calm after the storm, I find myself again in tête à tête with my small trees. I pass by each row, I look at them with love, I congratulate them on their production and mainly, I take great care of them by once again giving them food supplements so that they recover and have some reserves for the winter.

Besides the work in the field, there is the “intellectual” work. Since the beginning I have taken advantage of every encounter with the caring and informed people I meet. I try to glean information, advice and knowledge. Through training courses, I’ve gradually learned the art of pruning, the management of the orchard at the phytosanitary level, the operation of a mill and especially the art of tasting olive oil. How exciting!

I want to pick up most of my olives by hand because it is a great pleasure to touch these wonderful fruits.

Olive oil is characterised by its fruitiness, bitterness, and ardour. When we taste an oil, we first smell it, which will indicate the intensity of the fruitiness (which will then be confirmed during the tasting) and particularly, the presence or absence of defects. Here, our olfactory memory comes into play, ancient and therefore natural and prepared, because depending on the variety, we need to know which scents we should be able to detect more or less intensely and recognise the defects if there are any. Then we taste it, making a strange noise with the mouth, as we do with wine, to try to bring out the aromas. The texture, more or less fluid, coats the mouth cavity, some flavours come to mind, then on the tongue, we feel an intense bitterness and finally at the back of the throat, the heat can surprise us by making us cough slightly depending on its intensity.

For extra virgin olive oil, the physico-chemical analysis will be added to the tasting. As you can see, I love everything about this new job, my passionate nature gives me great pleasure.

In summary, you will have understood that an extra virgin olive oil of great quality is obtained by the work in the field, the work of the miller and the means of preservation, away from the light, the air, and the heat.

Happy tasting to you!

Pre-order The Artisans’ Box with Oliu DI E SERRE olive oil here

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