Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Our olive harvest

time to harvest!
Checking the weather, we discovered a block of what appeared to be four days of decent weather exactly at the time we had decided to harvest our olives. 

We'd impatiently been looking for a new olive press, as our old press had finally given up the ghost and decided NOT to open this year. 

We couldn't pick the olives until we'd found a press that was open!  Finally, through the "garden center" in the Ropa valley, we found one in Gardellades.  It was only about an extra five minutes from the house which all things considered, was pretty good!

The weather was sunny and between 22C and 25C (72 F-77 F) which was ideal and only a little warm.

T got everything organized and ready and 8:30 Saturday morning we were doing the first tree.

falling like rain
Raking the olives off the branches with three different sized rakes.  Also with hands (but more leaves come off that way... and you have to sort out the leaves!)

There were so many olives on the tree!
medium rake

We managed to get a pretty good rhythm going, we me on the ground getting all the low branches and T on the ladder getting the high ones.
just before the gather

We used three different sized rakes (the heads were pretty much the same size) to reach difficult places.

Of course there is a certain amount of eye hand coordination that you need to use, particularly when you are reaching over your head.

We only had three trees to gather from this year,  but they were, as usual, bountiful.   Luckily, we had all of them trimmed two years ago and the man who did it, knew what he was doing!!  The tree branches were laden! 

[Long rake is being used on tree on left]

ready to gather
By the end of Saturday (we had to wrap up early as we were going to a friend's house for Curry night (see previous post!) around 5, we'd finished the first tree and rolled up the nets in preparation for sorting the next day.

[Balou  really tried to help.  She was at her best though, holding down the nets so the olives couldn't escape...]

 Sunday we were again out early to start raking and gathering.  We got three good sized bags from the first tree and three from the second tree.

It's a simple process, you hand pick all the big dead branches out of the pile of olives, then with the sorter you shake the olives back and forth until the little bits of leaves fall through and you have "clean" olives...

except the sorter weights about 5 lbs and you fill it with about 20 lbs of olives and shake out at least two pounds of detritus. 

It takes about 5 of the sorters to fill a bag just under 60 lbs. Each tree had 3 bags.

At the end of the day you can imagine how your shoulders feel!

clever way not to tear up the nets!
Monday was the third and final tree.  Some friends who'd never harvested olives, came by and so I got up really early to start some spaghetti sauce and make a quick cake.  Then we were at it again by 8:30.  We finished up the last bagging of the second tree and started raking the olives off the last tree. 

Our guests arrived and while my friend decided to sit and draw, Alex decided to help T with the raking of the last tree. 

He was so excited he begged to come with us for the olive pressing! (As he is young and strong and  speaks Greek, we figured he'd be a welcome addition...)

Meanwhile I started to collect some nice ripe olives to cure in brine.  I'd already done some green olives and some big Kalama's from a neighbors tree.

By Monday night the olives were all in their bags and shut up in the trailer waiting for transport Tuesday morning.

We arrived at about 10 AM, and waited no more than 15 minutes. 

They had a nice little waiting area with a tv, which would have been fine but for the NOISE of the business end of the press!

There was a lot of machinery in there!

Then we were told to back the trailer up to the sorter weighing machine and empty the olives into the press!

We were really glad Alex decided to come- not least because the bags were pretty heavy!

 All our olives were finally in the hopper...

 sorter scale at work.
the washed olives go into the weigh bucket, to be tallied each time the bucket was filled.
our olive weight! (576 lbs)  The olive press kept our olives separate, and didn't mix them with anyone else's, so it was only our olives processed to make our oil.

our olives were in number 2...

Our olives being pulped and the blades hand sprayed with hot steam water (oil and water separate quite nicely!) The greener the olives the less oil.  Many people think that the oil is much better with a mixture of green and black olives.

riper olives than ours were in vat number 3!! (our oil was WA-ay better)

sign in Greek asking people to keep their children out of the machinery...

Steaming mountain of pits outside the building.  When cooled and dried it's used as fuel for the olive press!

Finally into the centrifuge to separate our oil. 

Filling the carriers- we had two large cans and two five liter plastic carriers.  We ended up with about 30 liters of olive oil (or 8 gallons).

Our emerald prize at the end of the three days. (well that and the sore muscles!)


  1. How facinating! I've never seen the process and what a great result, your own olive oil. Oh, I'm envious, especially as the weather has turned cold & wet here in London.

    Helena xx

  2. Well worth all the hard work...your olive oil looks superb and I bet it tastes wonderful

  3. The oil is superb. It's got a wonderful almost sweet green flavor and a peppery after taste as it goes down your throat. It's amazingly clear and such a lovely color of emerald green, you'd almost think it's Irish!

  4. I really enjoy reading your blog, partly because they give me someone else's perspective as a Brit that has upped sticks and now calls somewhere else "home".

    I have created a site which features the burblings of blogging Brits living abroad at

    As part of this, I have included a link to your posts. I hope you don't mind.

    If you'd prefer me to delete this link, please let me know, and I shall remove it straight away.

    Thanks a lot!

  5. What a colour that oil is!

    I've just been catching up....and have learned a lot about olive and olive oil production...what a talent you have for describing something in straightforward terms.

    Super photographs....

  6. Thanks for all the kind comments!

    She: Thank you. I'm honored... (further reply on last post!)

    Fly: Straightforward? Er, it's called a lack of imagination...

    Lacey: re Balou- Also a great paperweight.

    Helena: Spoke too soon! It's now pouring down raining here too! (but it's still warmer!)

    Ayak: I wish I could send you some!!

  7. Jes, What a great post. I have a few pics from when our olives were harvested but not the whole process since it took the guys about 3 days. Also, it's a sad year for us- we barely had any olives. Next year should be better.
    But the oil, ohhhhh the oil!! Ours is probably just as green and lovely. I used it in salad for the first time yesterday, heaven.



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