All about olive harvesting: How to harvest your own olive trees!
Did you know that Cypriots harvest more than 10 thousand tons of olives every year?! The island has a long tradition of cultivating olive trees, going thousands of years back! No wonder, since as native Mediterranean trees, olives thrive in Mediterranean climates, with long, hot dry summers and mild winters.
So the growers’ most exciting time of the year begins in October: The harvesting season! Lasting until January, this is the most active season of the year, that brings a lot of sweat, but also a lot of smiles to the faces of growers – both professionals and amateurs who see this as their favourite hobby!
Wondering how to begin harvesting your olive trees? Here are the basics to get you started!
Colours and olive ripeness
Colour matters when it comes to olive harvesting, so you will need to learn how to distinguish the right olives to pick, depending on their colour! Now let’s get a bit more specific:
All olives start out green. And immature. Typically, green olives are quite firm and have a longer shelf life, but they are also quite bitter. So they will need several months to mellow in flavor. These are the olives you need if you want to brine them. If you’re interested in producing oil from these olives, know that it’s going to be bitter, pungent and grassy.
Yellow-green to red-purple olives
As the olives start to ripen, their colour starts changing. They become softer, less bitter and less pungent. This is the ideal stage to harvest if you want to produce oil, since your olives now have close to a maximum amount of oil per dry weight. In fact, they are considered to be at their peak for olive oil production!
The mature ones! Both edible (after they are water-cured) and full of oil! Their flavour is now mellow, and they have a high oil content, often described as “sweet oil”, since it’s even less bitter and less pungent.
The harvesting procedure
Now that you know how to choose your colours, well… you will also want to know how it’s done! So let’s get right to it!
You will need your garden gloves, a rake, an olive harvester, some buckets, a ladder and olive nets! First, place your olive net under the tree. Then, put on your garden gloves and start hand-picking the olives you want from the lower branches. Use your ladder for the higher ones!
After completed the hand-picking stage, it’s time to utilize your equipment: Get your rake or olive harvester and gently dislodge the olives. Careful not to break the branches by whacking them too hard. Gather all olives from the net using your rake, place them in the bucket and move on to the next tree!
Careful not to leave any olives on the ground, as they will rot and they may foster disease and olive fruit flies.
You must utilize the olives within three days of harvest, before they start oxidizing and becoming “sour”. So make sure you plan accordingly!
Well, now that you have it all figured out, what will you serve on your table this year? Brined green olives, black mature ones or olive oil? Whichever the case, we are sure you will enjoy your very own olive products! Bon appétit!