For the olive industry, the harvest is about to begin and one cannot help to wonder what flavours the 2018 fruit will have locked in them. Will it be another bitter season or will mother nature be kind enough to grant a slow even harvest? No matter what the outcome will be, the producer will be blessed to witness life in its most basic form and the consumer will be blessed to use a product containing nothing but the goodness of the earth.
Here are some of the harvesting methods used:
Hand harvesting is the most traditional way of picking olives. The fruit is handpicked into bags in the case of table olives or raked onto nets around trees in the case of oil olives. The fruit picked in this way typically shows very little damage and it is relatively free from foreign matter (soil, branches, leaves, etc.). Harvesting by hand makes a lot of sense for small farmers that have taller and more spread out tress. While it is the only option for smaller producers, harvesting by hand can be labour intensive and expensive. Harvesting costs are their largest expense of the year, forcing producers to charge high-prices for their oil.
Most olives today are harvested by shaking the boughs or the whole tree or raking the fruit from the individual branches using hand rakes or vibrating rakes. The ripeness of the olives at the time of harvest ultimately determines how the oil will taste. Greener olives generally make more intense, grassy flavours and less oil. More mature purple fruit will make mild and buttery oil that is often golden in colour.
Industrial producers use machines to “pick” their olives. What the machines really do is to shake the trunk so that the fruit falls from the branches and catch the olives in a net. It’s a much more efficient method