Cousin Harold noticed them first. “...there were some rows where the trees just came alive with them”.
Grasshoppers! Lots of them in the new orchard!
He had been driving through 160 acres on the northern-most, western-most parcel and had seen them in the Moraiolo trees. A quick survey the next day confirmed the sighting, so two of us took a break and drove up the road to see them for ourselves. Farming isn’t all rainbows and olive blossoms — we had pests eating our trees!
It was 94F with a slight breeze when we headed out, and the sun shone brightly on the gate lock as we entered. All was quiet as we drove past the first 140 rows, and then we saw them; hundreds of grasshoppers in the western-most rows of our western-most orchard, feeding on Moraiolo leaves. We turned north and drove between rows 140 and 141; grasshoppers sprung from the soil and trees as we pushed past them. The flurry of pests was undoubtedly a welcome sight to the songbirds, foxes, quail, turkeys and other wildlife who saw a tasty feast instead of what we saw - potential damage to our orchard. Fortunately, this was a small invasion from the field next door in an isolated corner. The trees suffered some leaf damage, but it was limited to a few trees — and we decided the grasshoppers were likely something the birds would handle for us. The fruit looked whole and healthy.
As we stood still near the trees, the beasties quieted and I swear you could hear the sound of leaf munching. I understand that grasshoppers are a good source of protein and are quite tasty when dried and ground for flour and baked into cookies. This bunch would offer extra antioxidants, no doubt, and might even be considered “high polyphenol grasshoppers”, I supposed.
However, there would be no grasshopper cookies for us this day; we left them for the wildlife. In the spirit of our strong-legged friends, we "hopped" back into the truck and swung around to see the Taggiasca trees to the south, then the Hojiblanca and newest Ascolano, around back to the main gate with a few intrepid ‘hoppers clinging to the windshield wipers.
Over 1,000 Moraiolo trees were planted in the “grasshopper orchard” along with more than 5,000 additional assorted Pendolino, Leccino and Frantoio trees for a classic Italian blend. Please sign up for our mailing list to be first to find out about harvest timing and olive oil release dates.