by cheri arbequina sabraw
Last month, we learned from our host Umberto at La Chiusa in Montefollonico, Italy that the olive fruit fly, too, had obliterated his entire harvest last year. In fact, the fly had stung most of the olives throughout Tuscany in 2014. (Note: much of the 2014 Italian olive oil you enjoy has been pressed with the fly larvae in it, so extra virgin also means extra protein!)
My husband lamented, “The fly has successfully stung almost every varietal in our orchard for the past four years despite my spraying every week with an organic spray. “ He continued to Umberto, “ Are you going to spray a pesticide this year after your loss?”
“No,” said Umberto, sipping on his Prosecco and offering one to us. Although it was only 11:00 am, we each accepted a tall elegant glass of the bubbling elixir perhaps to dull the memories of all the rotten olives we have stripped from our trees.
It was out in Modesto, California, last November when we drove the small number of olives ( maybe 75 pounds) that hadn’t turned a piebald and dimply purple and in which were not living wiggly larvae that we learned our organic pesticide—touted by all at the county, U.C. Davis, and in the Bay Area environmental community as the way to eradicate the olive fruit fly—did not work.
“What are you using?” asked the old fella who owned the olive press there and who pressed most of the olives grown in the Central Valley.
“ GF-120,” answered my husband.
The old olive man tilted his head, raised one eyebrow, and nodded. “ Hell, that stuff doesn’t work. Everyone knows that.”
It seems that our orchard, unprotected from the fly by the intense heat of the Central Valley, lies in a micro-climate in which the fly thrives—cool nights and mornings, warm afternoons, and moderate temperatures into the fall. Coming to this orchard is like attending a feast extraordinaire.
“I’ve tried everything I can, “ I overheard my husband say to the county pesticide regulators this past spring.
“Well, you have to take a test in order to administer this treatment,” I heard a cold voice respond on the speakerphone.
July is olive fruit fly month when, during the previous four years, the pest has stealthily entered our boutique orchard of Leccino, Maurino, Frantoio, and Arbequina olives in their infancy to set its seed of destruction and leave its babies eating the fruit from the inside out.
Not this year, we hope.