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Day in the Olive Groves: Virgin Olive-Harvester No More!

This article was written by Gayle Padgett Smith the author of Passion for Provence: 22 Keys to La Belle Vie. She shares that she is no longer a virgin to the olivade (olive harvest) St. Remy de Provence.

Here, is our book review on Passion for Provence a Memoir by Gayle Smith Padgett.

Mother Nature adores olives. At least she did the day of my very first olive harvest in late October near Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. Mme N halted the horrendous mistral winds of the previous day and summoned a deep blue sky and warm sunbeams that transformed a drab olive grove into a shimmering fantasyland.

View over olive grove, Les Alpilles

An olive grove at the foot of Les Alpilles in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.

But this wasn’t playtime. My husband, Ralph, and I were worker bees reporting for duty—to help a friend bring in the precious fruit. Decked out in long sleeves and gardening gloves—for protection from scratchy twigs—we stood at attention in front of our commanding olive officer to receive our marching orders. Extensive they weren’t. “See those rakes over there?” she asked. “Grab ‘em and go!”

Raking olives Virgin Olive Harvester

A little yellow rake is all it takes—no special no-how required—to harvest olives.

The lightweight rakes had sturdy, yellow plastic tines connected to a twenty-inch-long wooden shaft. We joined a group, which included helpful, tree-climbing youngsters, already raking away. Ralph was experienced and dove right in, but I proceeded cautiously. By gently pulling the instrument down a branch, the olives popped off and bounced onto the net, carefully stretched out around the tree trunk. Easy-peasy. Soon I was raking with abandon!

Virgin Olive Harvester

Oodles of olives rest in the net.

After a few hours of this harvest workout, moving from tree to tree, lunch was announced. We gathered up the last net and poured the fruits of our labour into buckets and crates. Satisfied with the heaping mélange—some plump and smooth in shades of eggplant and moss; others tiny, wrinkled and black—I said to Ralph, “Not too shabby for a newbie.” In reply, he gave me a two-thumbs-up to recognize my just-earned veteran olive-picker status.

Turns out olive-picking is second nature for me. Maybe it is for you, too. Perhaps next season, Provence will tempt you to take up the rake.

Lunch is served, olive harvest

After the harvest, a hearty lunch on the terrasse.

Image credits: Photos provided by and published with the permission of Gayle Padgett

More by Gayle Padgett

Beyond Vin at the Saint Rémy de Provence Fête du Vin – Find out if this just another typical Friday night in this lovely town in the Alpilles.

Discover why Gayle and her husband chose Provence for their retirement home. A story of two American expats who love the lifestyle in the South of France.

Her book took a while to complete, but this is why you should keep notes. How Journaling leads to Passion for Provence: 22 Keys to La Belle Vie.

If Gayle’s day in the olive groves sounds fun, why not gather some friends together (there is room for 8-10) for a gourmet weekend in the olive groves?  Read more about a Fall Weekend Gourmet Getaway in the Olives in Provence.

Olivade Domaine de Palerme

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Gayle Padgett

Gayle Padgett

Gayle Smith Padgett, a UCLA graduate, has two master’s degress, neither in French. After studying in Mexico and South America, she worked as a language specialist in California and Virginia and later as a management analyst and US government liaison in Heidelberg, Germany. In 2011, she and her husband moved to Provence where they continue to crack French culture codes.

Discover more about Gayle's backstory and writing on her website - gaylesmithpadgett.com and read her books Passion for Provence: 22 Keys to La Belle Vie and The Birdwatcher's Wife: A Quest across France for Birds and La Belle Vie.


  1. blank
    November 11, 2018 at 9:05 am — Reply

    Hi, we have rented a villa in Les Issambres for
    2 was in early June….4 retired adults, I am a travel agent. We would love to meet you and get some local insight on food and markets, best towns to see, etc,

    I am a huge fan of Susan Kerman.lewis which is how I found you.

    I am from Virginia and my email is…pat.schelling@gmail.com.

    • blank
      November 11, 2018 at 2:48 pm — Reply

      Hello Pat: Thank you for reading Perfectly Provence. The Côte d’Azur in early June sounds magical. I’ll send you off an email.

  2. blank
    November 17, 2018 at 10:27 am — Reply

    Gayle, this sounds like a fun day for you and Ralph! And I’m sure the lunch was delicious.

    • blank
      November 18, 2018 at 4:19 pm — Reply

      Thanks, Keith. Gayle didn’t share the details of the menu from their lunch, but no doubt it was delicious and so wonderful to be able to dine al fresco in late October.

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