The Olive Harvest
At this time of the year, olive farmers are preparing the olive harvest, if they haven’t already started. Depending on the geographical area, the olive harvest may be delayed or advanced, although it is not the only determining factor.
We tell you when the olive is harvested in this post. Keep reading so you don't miss a thing!
How and when the collection is carried out
When autumn arrives, the olives begin to ripen, which means that the time has come for the olive harvest. In Spain, between the months of October and February the olive harvest is carried out. Every year is a mystery, since a farmer never knows exactly when the olives are harvested.
Previously, between June and November, olive oil begins to form within the pulp of the olive, this is what is known as lipogenesis. When this process ends, it is when the olive harvest begins. However, this process may vary depending on multiple factors, such as geographical area, orography, variety, weather, etc.
So what is the best time to pick the olive? This will depend on the oil we want to make and the production performance. For example, if we want an extra virgin olive oil with its organoleptic and healthy qualities at its peak, we will start in mid-October, although the productivity will be lower. If we want a traditional extra virgin, equally healthy and of exceptional quality with good productivity, we will start the harvest a little later, approximately in December.
When an olive is not in veraison, the more expensive it will be to collect it and, therefore, to make that oil. For this reason, there are so many differences between a traditional extra virgin olive oil and an early harvest one: in the traditional one, the olives fall more easily and much more oil can be produced with fewer fruits; In early oil, the detachment of the olive is more complicated and more fruit is needed to make a liter of oil.
Only four or five kilos of olives are needed to make a liter of traditional extra virgin olive oil, while in early harvest extra virgin olive oil, around 8 or 10 kilos of olives will be needed, exactly double that.
Basically, the more mature the olive is, the more oil it will have inside and, therefore, the more profitable the production will be.
It is difficult to predict exactly when the olives are harvested from the olive tree in a certain season, since it depends on several conditions. The state of maturity of the olive is one of the determining factors, although we can also find:
- Quantity of olive tree production. An olive tree that has more olives will take much longer to mature than one with a lower production.
- Ground. The terrain influences both the quantity and the quality of the olives. The slope or the geography of the olive grove influences the productivity of the olive groves, the most productive being those found in the hills or countryside.
- Weather conditions. Although they can delay the time of harvest, they can also damage the fruit. An excess of water, an absence of rain or the cold can be decisive.
- Variety. Each variety of olives has different qualities and these influence their ripening date.
- Farmer care. The olive harvest date from a well-cared olive tree will begin earlier and with higher quality olives. When we speak of a “well cared for” olive tree, we refer to one that receives all the necessary treatments and tasks, such as pruning, fertilization, irrigation, taking care of diseases, etc.
- Veceria. It is a natural phenomenon that consists of alternating a year of abundant harvest with a year of low production in the olive tree.
If a farmer wants to know exactly when to start the olive harvest, he can perform an analysis on the fruit to determine its degree of maturity. However, within the same olive tree, we can find different degrees of maturity in the olives.
Traditional harvesting and mechanized harvesting
When it comes to picking olives, we find two different ways to do it: traditional harvesting and mechanized harvesting.
Traditional harvesting is one in which labor is necessary, since the olive is harvested directly and manually with the hands, although sometimes tools such as scissors or blades can be used. The process is slower, but it makes sure to avoid damaging the olives.
The vareo is characteristic in the traditional harvest. This olive harvesting system consists of the workers, with the help of a stick, hitting the branches of the olive tree and making the olives fall into the bundle.
The traditional harvest is characteristic of mountain olive groves. Its geographical conditions make it difficult for specialized agricultural machinery to enter.
On the other hand, mechanized harvesting is carried out in olive groves on the hills and in the countryside. In this type of harvesting, specialized machinery is involved, both automatic and controlled. In super-intensive crops, we come to find machines with vibrating arms that grip the olive tree and shake the plants. This method allows to collect the hectares of an olive grove in a very short time.