We wound our way an hour and a half north of Amman through the mountains toward Al Ayoun. Stands dotting the side of the road let you know what fruit or vegetable is in season. Jordan receives the majority of its produce from this fertile region as well as the Jordan River Valley.
This month is olive season. Families that own olive groves work the entire year for these few autumn weeks. If the harvest is plentiful, they will be able to provide for their families until the next harvest.
One cool fact about olive trees: they can live and produce quality fruit for thousands of years. The older an olive tree gets the wider the trunk grows. Locals claim some of their trees were planted at the time of the Roman Empire; if that’s the case, the tree below is nearly 2,000 years old! Crazy! If you are lucky, while roaming the grounds of these ancient groves, you might even spot a stone olive press or other remnants from the Roman occupation.
The farm we visited sprawled 10,000 square meters over the rocky mountainside. It was purchased four generations ago by Mohammad’s great grandfather. Mohammad, his wife, Mysoon, and their three young daughters live a simple, yet happy life off of the land.
Upon arrival we were warmly greeted, received a short tutorial on how to pluck the olives off of the tree and then it was work time. Sheets spread beneath our feet collected the olives that rained down on us. A tree is not considered harvested until each stubborn olive is striped from its branches. While we were hard at work, tea was brewed over smoldering coals with leaves picked straight from thyme and sage plants in the garden.
For lunch, Mysoon and her Mother-in-law prepared a meal called “maglubeh”; originally a Palestinian dish, it is frequently made by Jordanians. Fry eggplant, potatoes, carrots and cauliflower, add chicken, spices and lastly rice, and call it irresistible. The dish is named after the way it is presented, flipped upside down. Cooked in a large pot, it is then flipped onto a serving tray and served steaming to the honored guests.
We spent the rest of the afternoon collecting olives into large sacks, wandering around the expansive farm and relaxing under the shade.
Their 100 trees will take only two weeks to harvest. The olives their family does not keep will be sold or made into olive oil. And then their work begins all over again, preparing for the next year’s harvest.