The olive picking
Useful tips for harvesting olives, which will help you for the best result.
Harvesting the fruits is that stage of olive production that growers usually pay the least attention to. In reality, however, the picking of the fruits is of decisive importance for the quality of the olive oil that will be produced afterwards. If it is done at the right time and in the most appropriate way, on the one hand it ensures the highest possible yield from the fruits that the trees have given each time, while on the other hand it affects the next year’s production. In general, when olives are picked before they are ripe (while they are green), the following year’s production will be higher. If the picking is delayed, then the quality of the oil also deteriorates and the next year’s production will appear reduced. However, the most suitable time for harvesting each time must be decided basically according to the olive variety.
When and how the olives are picked.
The time to harvest the fruit is very often based on tradition, for example every year in December, when labor is available in the fall or when the owner of the olive grove can be busy – a fact that is a mistake for proper olive production, as the collection earlier or later gives oil of inferior quality.
Generally, the olive fruit is harvested from the end of October to the end of January, with the best season being when the fruit is 25% green and 75% black (not black). Its ripening is accompanied by browning and a simultaneous reduction of the bitter essence – one of the quality characteristics of good olive oil. There are several varieties and specific characteristics that determine when the fruit is ready for harvest.
As a rule, in the mountain olive groves the fruits ripen later compared to the lowland olive groves of the same area. Accordingly, in an olive grove located on a mountainside the fruits ripen earlier than neighboring lowland olive groves, with the same soil type, and south-facing olive groves earlier than northern-facing olive groves.
When purple spots appear on the fruit, then the olive enters its ripening phase. These spots grow until the fruit is ripe (when it has the color of its variety).
In the table varieties, the fruit is harvested after the increase in size has been completed and definitely before the flesh has softened.
Olives intended for oil production have the highest oil content after they are ripe (black color). On the other hand, the oil produced is more aromatic if the harvest is done just as they begin to ripen. In these varieties the collection begins with the change of color and escalates to full maturity, depending on the conditions.
Green olives should be harvested when they reach the desired size and begin to ripen.
Black olives are harvested when they are ripe (when they have acquired their characteristic color), but always before they begin to soften, because then their quality characteristics are reduced.
The olive tree is the most popular crop in our country, from which for decades we have been producing excellent quality products that are in high demand all over the world.
The olive harvest is considered one of the most critical stages of olive cultivation, both for table olive varieties and for olive oil production.
The harvesting process decisively affects the quality of the produced product and must be done at the right time and in the right way.
It is important to start the right period of harvesting the olive fruit according to the stage of ripening, choosing ideal weather conditions, using the right tools and materials for harvesting olives.
At the same time, the choice of the packaging method and the transport of the fruit to the oil mill has an important role in ensuring the quality characteristics of the olive fruit.
What do we pay attention to when picking olives?
We plan the picking of the olives to be done at the appropriate stage of ripening of the fruit, depending on whether it is table grades or oiling, in order to have a higher quality of produced product.
We are careful not to create wounds on the branches of the trees during harvesting, and we avoid pressing the fruits that are on the nets. We use plastic crates or jute sacks that provide the best ventilation and protect the fruits from the deterioration of their quality characteristics.
– For the production of oil, we transport the olives to the olive mill as soon as possible in order to have olive oil with higher quality characteristics.
What is the right season and when is the olive picking?
In table olive varieties, the olive fruit is harvested as soon as the growth of the fruit is complete, before it ripens and its flesh begins to soften.
For olive varieties, harvesting begins when the color of the olive fruits turns green-purple and gradually darkens.
We must bear in mind that the early harvest of olive fruit gives us the famous agouro oil, which in recent years has been in high demand thanks to its special characteristics as a product of valuable nutritional value with a high content of phenols and antioxidants.
If we delay picking the olives, there is a risk of having lower quality olive oil in terms of organoleptic characteristics and increased acidity that negatively affects the final product. This happens as we often have a significant late infestation of the olive borer in the fall due to favorable temperature and humidity conditions.
In addition, late harvesting increases the chances of reduced fruiting of the olive trees the following year.
What conditions are favorable for olive harvesting?
During the olive harvest, we avoid beating and pruning the olive trees in rainy weather and humid conditions, as wounds fall on the branches of the olive trees.
These wounds cannot cause foci of infection and the development of fungal diseases, the main of which is cancer.
In any case after the olive harvest, spraying with copper is confirmed to fight diseases and to maintain healthy olive trees.
What are the proper harvesting media for the olive?
We choose to collect with manual means, especially combs or sticks mainly for the table olive varieties, as we do not want to hit the olive fruit to be able to process it and not lose its commercial value.
For the harvesting of the oleaginous varieties, detailed mechanical means with various types of oleorespirators.
When pruning the olive trees, we are careful not to have too many wounds on the branches and not to have a large loss of leaf surface, as this can have negative consequences on the next year’s production
How do we pack and transport the olive fruit?
When picking the olives, especially for the table qualities but also for oiling, we use plastic or wooden crates that cause good ventilation, so that the mold fungus does not develop, which causes the degradation of the olive oil and the increase in acidity.
Especially for oiling, they cannot use yutins or plastic nets that are perforated and facilitate good ventilation.
The classic plastic bags are in a state of development of high temperatures and poor ventilation that contribute to the degradation of the quality of the olive oil and should be avoided.
The problem becomes more intense when the olive fruit remains in the bag for a long time until it is transported to the olive mill and the olive oil is extracted.
And a secret about olive picking.
After the olive is harvested, the plant material created (leaves, branches, trunks) can be used in the context of ecological agriculture and sustainability.
Leaves cannot be incorporated into the soil to gradually yield nutrients through the composting process.
Also, the branches of the olive trees can be crushed, with a special shredder and shredder, and incorporated into the soil to increase the organic matter and make the soil more fluffy.
Finally, we can utilize the thick branches and trunks of olive trees as an important fuel for domestic heating.