life lessons from the olive harvest

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In last month’s Atlantic, Sara Jenkins tells the story of her family’s annual olive harvest in Tuscany, which is, ultimately about taking risks and  learning as you go. The Jenkins family has a rich history in food–Sara runs Porchetta and Porsena in New York City, and her mother Nancy Harmon Jenkins is the author of six cookbooks. Nancy and I spent some time traveling together in Italy, and I remember her always being game to drive off  check out a market she’d heard of or  wander into new places in search of adventure. It’s not surprising to me that Nancy and her family would take on the task of growing and harvesting olive trees, an indisputable challenge.

Sara describes the harvest process, and though it sounds like a rich event filled with friends and the best kind of hard work, success depends on much that is out of your control. Deciding when to pick hinges on how the weather has been that year, and picking too soon or too late can impact the flavor and amount of the oil you get. The Jenkins made the call to delay harvesting the olives, resulting in an oil that—while deliciously fresh and grassy —was not up to typical Tuscan standards. I loved Sara’s attitude about the process, which displays a willingness to risk and make “mistakes”  that I admire:

“…we went into this as an experiment; if we don’t push the extremes we won’t know the boundaries.”

Related posts: xx
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olive oil strategies, from batali’s faves to d-i-y
radical shift: economist into farmer/forager 

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