One Man and His Donkey
olive oil from the Gran Sasso mountain of Abruzzo...
My Uncle Tom (Dad’s younger brother) has lived in Italy for many years, and under the snow capped mountain of Gran Sasso D’Abruzzo sit his ancient olive groves and farmhouse, survivor of countless earthquakes. The Gran Sasso is known for its silhouette, which has been compared to that of a sleeping woman and is sometimes known as La Bella Addormentata.
For many years now, Dad has been travelling to help Tom with the olive harvest each October. Harvest is something of a family affair, with Tom’s four sons, various cousins, sisters and brothers all helping out when they can. This explosion of activity is the culmination of a year of hard work for Tom, and follows the hot Abruzzo summer. After a long days of harvesting in the olive groves, the brothers would sit down to a glass of fine Italian red wine, and discuss their dreams of turning this delicious olive oil into something they can actually market and sell, under its own name… This is the year that they have (finally!) got round to it, after trialling and honing it for some time. “One Man and His Donkey” is the finished result – a beautiful single estate, extra virgin, cold pressed olive oil. Only the best olives are hand selected by Tom for this product, from the Leccino and Frantoio varieties that he grows. Tom uses sustainable farming methods that are friendly to the surrounding environment, and the oil is certified organic by the Soil Association. Once the last of the olives have been harvested and the whirlwind of family has decamped, Tom remains behind to tend to the groves year round. This is where the name for the olive oil stems from, of course – one man and his donkey!
This year, Tom and Dad pressed the oil within less than four hours of harvesting the olives, for maximum flavour and freshness. It has created a fruity, spicy, peppery oil. The acidity on this year’s oil was beautifully low, at 0.1% – the finest grade of extra virgin oil.
Above, Tom’s son Hazzy helping with the olive harvest
Once the oil has been pressed, it is shipped to us at Shipton Mill for bottling, labelling and packing – a family affair from start to finish. There were more than a few “Captain Haddock” moments for myself with the sticky labels for the bottles (those of you who have read Tintin will know what I’m talking about).
Uncle Tom is very fond (from a reasonable distance!) of the Marsican Brown Bears native to Abruzzo, and of which it is believed there are only 50 or so left. One Man and His Donkey will therefore be making a donation from the profits of our olive oil to Salvia Malorso.
You can purchase the olive oil through our website here.
For the travel hungry, you can also stay in Tom’s yurt, and at certain times of the year can join in with the harvesting if you choose (more details on his yurt here – all photos courtesy of Uncle Tom at Glamping Abruzzo). For any enquiries, you can find all details on pricing, availability and location here.
And for a little flavour of Abruzzo and the surrounding region, here are some of Tom’s photos documenting the seasons…
Abruzzeze ‘tholos’ on the Maiella mountain
Passo Lanciano ski resort, below. Abruzzeze Tholos, above.
Castel del Monte, above. Santo Stefano di Sessanio, below.
Oratory at Rocca Calascio, below
Eremo di San Bartolomeo, below.Fly fishing on the river Tirino, below.
Above, Tom’s son’s canoeing on the river Tirino.
We are so excited to be launching this olive oil, and hope you love it as much as we do! It has been many years in the making, so it is a pretty special occasion for Tom and John, and all the family involved.
Merry Christmas all! Xx