This Thanksgiving weekend we're planting two dozen olive saplings in our outer grove. Some fill random gaps in rows of mature trees. Others are lined up, four or eight abreast, where we saw sufficient space between existing rows. Five extend a "stub row" in a steep section I'm fond of. Three will stand as benificent sentinels a meter from our southeastern property line. And one will sit in a high shoulder between two raspberry bushes bordering the Strada della Romita.
The new arrivals are just four years old: very young considering the lifecycle of olea europaea can span centuries, even many centuries. It'll be at least a couple of years before we see any fruit on them, but with hundreds of older trees to re-shape and render productive, we're okay to let these youngsters take their time.
By cultivar (or variety) of olive, today's planting of 24 saplings consists of:
6 Leccio del Corno
...of which the standout is the Leucocarpa, native to southern Italy and producer of "albino" olives wherein pigmentation recedes prior to ripening.* Leccio del Corno and Pendolino are also remarkable for their high yield while Moraiolo is prized for its robust and spicy flavor profile.
We're adding these trees to give back to the land and landscape that nourish us and our guests, to further diversify the cultivars in our care and to improve the pollination in our outer olive grove.
Coincident with this planting we'll also be trenching along a 150-meter length of our outer grove to bury several phone and data cables held aloft by four ugly six-meter-high utility poles that we'll be taking down
in early 2024. And we'll work with our excavator and plumber to pipe well water deep into our outer grove, terminating in a new tap that will make it easier to water the saplings as they settle into their new home over the next couple of (inevitably dry) summers.
So is it a happy Thanksgiving at Poggiosole? Just as the holiday evokes diverse feelings and remembrances in the U.S., I'm hard-pressed to give a pat answer, especially with my mom's (very) recent passing, all the more jarring for falling as it did on such a particular day for me. I'm enormously grateful to my parents for leaving me these homes and this land. Yet even in my maturity, I struggle to feel I had fully earned their trust and esteem (my dad, in particular, was a hard act to follow). In any case I feel the sheer weight of their bequest: the heft, breadth, beauty, and intricacy of the many facets of the lodgings, the groves, the soil, the wells and water (or lack thereof), the pumps and the pool... Undergirding it all: the numbers.
To those, add 24. There's work to do.
* During its annual cycle, Leucocarpa produces green olives, but when this fruit ripens, the skin fails to pigment and intead assumes an ivory-white color. In most cultivars, olives turn from light green to dark green or black due to the degradation of chlorophyll and the increased production of compounds called anthocyanins. In the Leucocarpa olive this process doesn't occur. The chlorophyll degrades but anthocyanins do not appear in its place, resulting in fruit that changes from light green to ivory as it ripens.