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Olive Harvest – All You Need to Know

Olive Harvest – All You Need to Know

With the end of summer, olive growers are slowly preparing for the most interesting and important part of the year, and that is the olive harvest. The very beginning of the harvest varies from olive grower to olive grower, but it is mostly from mid-October until the end of November. Some are guided by their many years of experience, and some by the recommendations of experts.

When are Olives Harvested?

After we explored types of Olive oils it’s time for harvest. Our ancestors would, according to tradition, mostly start harvesting olives after the 1st of November. The beginning and the end of the harvest were not conditioned by reflections on acids or peroxide numbers and even less on the organoleptic properties of olive oil.

However, it was rather timed when a family would run out of oil, after other agricultural work was completed or when it would be possible to get a processing date (there used to be a few oil mills), and a lot of other occurrences.

Hand vs. Machine

Most olive growers harvest by hand, and only a small proportion use shakers. When harvesting, care should be taken not to damage the fruits, because damaged fruits rot quickly and give lower quality oil.

To obtain high-quality oil, it is best that the fruits do not fall to the ground. Therefore, it is good to pick the fruits from the branches directly in baskets or to fall on plastic nets that stretch under the canopy. In order to speed up and increase the efficiency of manual harvesting, appropriate combs are used to browse the olive fruits.  

Mechanized harvesting machines are used in modern olive groves. Depending on the area of ​​the olive groves and the cultivation form, today’s market offers different models of olive harvesting machines. In smaller olive groves, which are the most common in our country, machines that comb the olives with combs are used.

As a result, the fruits fall on tarpaulins spread under the canopy. Mechanized harvesting demands appropriate conditions: growing form, proper pruning, tree height, degree of fruit maturity, and adaptation of the terrain for the application of the machine.

Olive Harvest

Harvested olives should be cleared of fallen leaves, twigs, and other impurities, then packed in plastic “crates” with perforated walls or in another suitable packaging (never in net bags because they damage the harvested fruit).

What affects the quality of Olive oil?

As in most cases, it is not possible to process the harvested fruits immediately, as they need to be stored for a short period of time. The olive fruit is a living organism that continues its biochemical activities even after harvest. Thus, on the fourth day after harvest, the fruits begin to ferment, and on the sixth day, the harvested fruits that are not safely stored are inhabited by mold fungi.

Fruits may be stored in airy rooms in plastic or wooden crates with openings on the side to allow air circulation.

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The quality of olive oil is affected by: variety 20%, degree of maturity 30%, method of harvest 5%, mode of transport 5%, method and duration of storage 10%, while the processing system amounts to 30%.

Every olive grower must keep all these factors in mind when building new olive groves, during the year when performing various necessary agro-technical interventions, and especially upon harvesting, storing, and processing.

Processed the olives as quickly as possible. In order to preserve the top-quality properties of olives at the time of harvest, they should be immediately packed and shipped to the oil mill for processing.

Today, different categories of olive oils are created from olives in oil mills, which are processed in two ways: by pressing and centrifugation.

Pressing and Centrifuging

The traditional way of processing olives by pressing consists of a stone mill, a mixer with an automatic dough dosing device, a press, and a centrifugal separator. This method allows the production of oils of natural composition since the dough preparation and oil extraction is carried out by a “cold” process.

Continuous olive processing is increasingly suppressing olive processing by pressing. The continuous olive processing line consists of several machines connected into a single unit: olive elevator, dirt removal machine, olive washing machine, olive receiving basket after washing, olive elevator for the mill, hammer mill, dough mixer, dough transfer pump to the decanter, centrifugal decanter, liquid trough with a vibrating sieve and automatic separator.

Olive harvest

The centrifugal process enables the production of oils of natural composition, with a higher content of antioxidants and corresponding organoleptic properties. The oil obtained in this way is of better quality and more stable in relation to oxidation processes.

Oil must distinction

After pressing or centrifuging the olives, an oil must is obtained, which is a mixture of oil and vegetable water. Oil must contain small amounts of dispersed organic matter of the fruit and impurities, which are during oil separation divided as a precipitate. Separated and purified oil is more resistant to the effects of spoilage during the storage period.

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The oil used to be primarily considered foodstuff, or merely spice for food. Today, olive oil has taken on other dimensions. Different olive oil categories represent prestige (competitions), medicine (chemical properties), the elixir of youth (used in cosmetics), entrepreneurial venture (oil mills, olive groves, packaging, sales), and, at the least, exactly what it really is: a spiced dish.

All these new dimensions that olive oil has acquired, complemented with new scientific knowledge characteristic of modern olive growers, influences the choice of the beginning (and end) of the harvest. Unsurprisingly, everyone wants to get the highest quality extra virgin olive oil. 

The great prize – a Work of art

Therefore, it should be taken as early as possible to get adequate “bitterness” and “spiciness”, to keep the acids as low as possible, while polyphenols are also considered. Moreover, there is also an important requirement, which is to win a few prizes to demonstrate quality, therefore certain varieties are prepared for competitions. After all, the oil should be packaged in a bottle and displayed with a nice label that sometimes resembles a small work of art.

So, let us go back to the beginnings, the very source of our quest – getting top-quality olive oil assessed according to their own criteria to ensure a second to none cooking fest and a top experience for our taste buds.  When we splash it over fish, meat, salad, or simply add it to another dish, its stellar reputation based on winning valuable medals in renowned competitions, makes the team’s sense of success even greater!

See you at the 2020 harvest!

In the meantime explore and taste W&M Olive Oil selection.
Olive oil harvest

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