- Author: Nancy Forrest
This fall I signed up at Be Love Farms (which is an organic winery and regenerative farm) to assist with harvesting of Olives and making Olive Oil. It was a fascinating day. the fruits of my labor netted me a few bottles of their Olive Oil and a wonderful lunch.
Olives are delicious fruit that can be collected from trees or bushes. Typically harvested in the late summer till early fall, there are few methods used mechanical and manual. Mechanical harvesting systems are designed to achieve the mass removal of the commodity during the harvesting season at once. This method has been practiced by shaking the trunks, limbs, and canopies of plants. In some cases, chemicals have been used to loosen the mature fruits. We used the hand-harvesting method. Hand-harvesting uses hand-held implements, hand-held rakes, hand-held limb shakers, and by beating the trees with poles.
The process was simple, but a lot of hard work. My arms ached by the end of the day. A few of us worked on one tree at a time, then moved to another tree. First, we placed tarps on the ground in order to catch the falling olives, and rakes were used to gently dislodge the olives from the tree. Ladders were used to climb up and pick the olives from the higher branches. For those areas that couldn't be reached with a rake, we slid our hand down the olive shoot in a milking action to remove the leaves and branches. We had to avoid stepping on the tarps. Which wasn't an easy task.
The process is repeated until all the olives are removed from the tree. Then we dragged the tarps over to large plastic bins and emptied them. These bins would be transported to the olive press.
The basic procedure for making olive oil has remained the same for thousands of years: harvest the olives at the right time, crush them into a paste, separate the solids from the liquid, and further separate the water from the oil. The method of extraction has a distinct effect on the flavor and ultimate quality of the olive oil.