When are olives harvested?
When are olives harvested? How ripe do they need to be? And how is it done? The answers aren’t as simple as you might think. Let’s take a look at the fascinating journey that takes olives from the olive grove to the press.
The olive harvest is a crucial time for producers of extra virgin olive oil. From the best time to harvest to the techniques used to do it, the quality of the oil produced depends on the decisions made during this delicate stage.
In fact, it’s no exaggeration to say that when it comes to producing a quality oil, the olive harvest is just as important as taking care of the olive trees and the processing stage in the press.
Harvesting the olives at the perfect time is the only way to obtain a balanced, long-lasting product with a fragrant aroma. And it’s important to consider a whole series of variables when it comes to assessing the perfect time for the harvest.
When are olives harvested? Generally speaking, olives are harvested in the autumn. But having said that, the perfect time for harvesting can vary from anywhere between October and December.
The stages of olive ripening
In addition to the right time, it’s also important to consider the technique used to harvest olives. The end product may take on different organoleptic characteristics based on the method chosen.
Stripping: the oldest method, whereby the fruit is harvested manually, directly from the tree. It has the advantage of not damaging the olives and avoiding fermentation processes, which can increase the level of acidity in the oil produced.
Abbacchiatura: this is the most widely used traditional method. The olives are made to fall from the trees into netting by hitting the branches with sticks.
Combing: rakes are used to “comb” the olive trees.
Collection: this technique risks resulting in over-ripened olives and can lead to mold. The fruits are only collected once they have fallen naturally from the branches.
Shaking: this is a great time-saving technique. Special machines are used to shake the olive trees and make the fruit fall.
Machine harvesting: in super-intensive cultivation, the most common practice is to use machinery used in vine cultivation. These machines have vibrating arms, which comb and shake the trees at the same time. This high-intensity method allows you to harvest a hectare of olive trees in the space of an hour.
In order to preserve the qualities of the olives and avoid damaging them ahead on the way to the press, it’s vital that specific storage instructions are followed for harvested olives.
The olives need to be placed in perforated plastic crates and efforts need to be made to avoid squashing them as much as possible. The olives can be stored in the crates for up to 24 hours before being transported from the olive grove to the press.