It was the sound I heard first, a harsh movement in the trees near the house. It was early morning and the sun was just beginning to cast its long shadows through the almond and olive trees surrounding the Cortijo.
My neighbours, Salvador and his son Salvador had started early, before the autumn heat kicked in, to harvest almonds.
With a fine net cast across the dry, patched ground to collect the almonds, the branches of the tree were being struck with a ‘palo’ or long stick to release the ‘drupes’. It’s a simple, labour-intensive technique that hasn’t changed for generations. With olive and almond harvesting on the commercial estates you see machines that mechanically shake the tree, vibrating the branches making the crop fall to the ground for collection.
Once the almonds are collected, there follows a time consuming process to remove the outer hull, a leathery-like coat, to release the shell, with in turn has to be broken to release the nut! Next time you buy almonds in the supermarket, spare a thought for all the effort that has gone into harvesting them.
I posted some pictures here of the almonds through the seasons – many people reading my blog didn’t know what an almond looked like on the tree, so it interesting for me to see the lifecycle. At this time of year the almonds trees look almost dead, parched and burnt looking, their bark a dark, almost charcoal grey/black and their leaves yellowing and curled.
The harvesting process seems an anachronism in these commercial times, but for small holders with just a few hectares of trees, this is the best approach.
With the economic crisis in Spain has come a more sustainable approach to rural life and the almonds and olive trees, once neglected in the boom years are once again becoming part of life.
This is also olive harvesting time. You can see a post I made a few years back, here, of local families collected the crop – the oil here is sensational. I have olive oil every day and when I travel I look out for good oil – being based in Southern Spain makes everyone an oil expert!