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Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Caltech Olive Harvest

Olives  have a long history. They've been around since just after the dinosaurs died en masse. They probably would have liked olives, had they stuck around. Because olives are delicious.

Caltech in Pasadena, CA is home to an urban (suburban?) olive cache and in recent years they've taken to harvesting them and making olive oil. It turns out this annual event is family friendly and earns participants t-shirts and escargot tastings, so my mom and I took my nephew Alex out for an afternoon of olive pickin' fun.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by huge ladders and cherry pickers, though most teams of students and random attendees seemed to enjoy attacking the trees with rakes and raining olives on their teammates below.

Alex gleefully jumped in to help one team collect the fallen fruits. He refused to give me a good shot of his happy, smiling face, but he did attack the olives like they were candy falling out of a piñata. Clearly the last three years of birthday parties were good training!


There were also huge trays of cured olives ready for eating. The feta cheese was delicious! Look at those huge bricks! (No, I didn't steal one, despite my addiction-level love of cheese.)

Oh, and the infused oils! They were set out for a blind tasting but I have no idea
what they were infused with, only that they all tasted more like olives than anything. The one in the green ramekin was the darkest of the offerings, and it was the one I liked best. I shamelessly ate about 10 pieces of bread dipped in just that. (Yes, I risked bread poisoning for it. Totally worth it.)

But the true highlight was the escargot being cooked onsite. I know they're an acquired taste for some, but I LOVE them. I tried to convince my mom they taste like mushrooms and, like a good sport, she ate one, but she's not a fan.


I'm still wondering why I didn't bother getting a can. Duh.

As it turns out, the patience of three-year-old being dragged around a college campus is nearly nonexistent, so we only "harvested" for about an hour. I do have to give Alex credit for not complaining much. He did keep repeating his fervent desire for chocolate ice cream, but after his hard work, he earned it. He's such a good kid. Many thanks to his parents for letting me borrow him for an afternoon!

I can't wait to taste the olive oil when it goes on sale next month. And I'm looking forward to going to the harvest again next year. This time, though, I'm totally snagging one of those cans of escargot!

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