THE OLIVE HARVEST AND OLIVE OIL PRODUCTION
Olive cultivation is relatively speaking, easy. It requires no specific farming care and the most difficult thing is collecting the fruit. It has been calculated that the gathering of olives takes 60% of the total cultivation costs of olives!
The harvesting of olives used to be done by hand. The olives were allowed to drop and then they were collected. For those olives which didn’t fall, the tree was shaken or hit with a stick until they did and then the women, who usually had this tiring job, collected them and put the fruit in baskets or panniers as can be seen in ancient Greek and Byzantine pictures. This method does not produce a good quality of oil. The traditional way of harvesting olives in areas of large production was the one using the stick. Special sticks were used to beat the trees so that the olives fell into special tarpaulins or nets that had been placed under the tree. In some areas with relatively small levels of production, it was customary to “pluck” the branches, in other words, to pull the olives off by hand and place the fruit in big baskets. This is probably the best method as you then do not bruise the olive, but this way would be impossible for large-scale harvesting.
Recent years have seen the appearance of some machines for harvesting purposes. These use the idea of a mechanized stick beating the tree, thus helping production to increase. There are small, plastic sticks which rotate on the machinery. They release the olives from the branches and the fruit fall down onto the prepared nets. Olives were taken to the oil press in large sacks in the old days. However, they lose their value if kept in these sacks for many days. It has therefore been established that olives need to be pressed one or two days after having been harvested. Nowadays, olives are transferred in plastic boxes, which do not bruise or press the fruit and are taken to the press on the same day they are collected.