Olives and the four seasons
Let us embark on our journey of discovery, with an account of the various activities of the olive grower throughout the year, culminating in harvesting from the fountainhead of this liquid gold!
Extra virgin olive oil is the outcome of a set of complex tasks. These tasks change from one season to the next, requiring passionate dedication, experience and a healthy partnership relationship with nature.
Our account of how EVO is produced is based on the example of our own Extra Virgin Olive Oil D.O.P. Riviera Ligure-Riviera dei Fiori – a product of our oil mill located in Imperia. The raw material is the Taggiasca (or Cailletier) olive, a hinterland crop.
A healthy partnership has been established between a generous land and the expertise of that land’s farmers. Out of this partnership comes a masterwork of taste and equilibrium – our P.D.O. olive oil.
Let’s find out what happens in our olive groves season by season.
As is the case for many crop plants in the Mediterranean basin, such as , the early winter months (December and January) are a period of vegetative rest for the olive tree.
By striking the right balance between ligneous parts and leafage, the trees shall be trained to produce the desired crop. The golden rule of pruning is that the foliage, or crown, should not be too dense. The passage of air and sunlight must be unimpeded.
The close of February sees vegetative recovery (i.e. the first new (grey-green) foliage appears).
Fertirrigation, for example, is a (leading-edge) technique that we adopt for our own (Azienda Agricola) olive groves. Fertirrigation enables fertilizer use and irrigation to meet the trees’ needs individually.
During this period, not only does the foliage reappear. The tree’s buds also sprout, and will gradually bloom.
Interestingly, the blossoms are not individual. They are not separated but are instead grouped in inflorescences (termed, olive blossoms) that remind one of a small bunch or cluster of grapes.
In mid-March, the infloration stage commences. This is when the inflorescences reach their fully grown state. When the spring reaches its high point, the blossoms are already fully formed but have still not bloomed.
They bloom in early May, for a period ending in the first ten days of June. Alongside the foliage, we at last see the white blossoms!
The blossoming period is followed in mid-June by the period of fruit-setting, when the corolla withers and falls away, and the bloom start to form fruits.
During the second half of June, fruit growth takes place. The first small olives appear, which continue to grow throughout the summer − thanks to the sun (and, in our case, thanks also to the salty sea breezes of this part of the world).
Growth of the fruits pauses in July. This is the stage when the stone hardens, or in other words, lignification of the endocarp (a key feature of drupes).
Growth of the fruits recommences, when the endocarp has fully lignified. At this stage, weather conditions are vital: the sizes of the olives and the olives’ concentrations of oil are greatly influenced the intensity of rainfall during these months.
In October, the olive begins to darken. This process may last even up to December. During this period, the changing color of the olives is an indicator of their ripening.
The olives are harvested when they have ripened as desired, i.e. half are green and the other half are black.
We harvest our olives the traditional way. We lay large nets under the olive trees and delicately detach the olive from the branches, also using a next-generation electric harvest tool. We then use a leaf separating device, and collect only the olives. We rapidly transfer these to our oil mill for processing.
The processing now commences. The aim is to transform the olives into olive oil (see our account in this article, and our dedicated infographic).
Have you already tried out our Extra Virgin Olive Oil D.O.P. Riviera Ligure Riviera dei Fiori? If you discover its finer points, the temptation then becomes irresistible. You can now purchase it just as the production campaign ends!