come and experience the olive harvest for
Stages of Ripening
After olive trees have flowered the fruit starts to develop. Initially the olives
are green and hard. Gradually as they ripen they change colour to yellow-green and then to reddish purple and
finally to black. These changes in appearance are matched by chemical changes within the fruit itself.
Unripe olives have high levels of chlorophyll which gives them their green colour.
During the ripening process the levels of chlorophyll fall and increasing amounts of carotenoid (the pigment which
produces the darkening of the fruit) develop.
Oil yield is low when the fruit are unripe and increases as the fruit matures. The
oil initially very bitter also sweetens at this stage. In addition the ripening will be influenced by the aspect of
the trees in the grove - those in more sheltered areas and olives at the top of the tree reaching maturity first.
It is possible however for the fruit to get too ripe. Most producers believe that once the crop is starting to fall
off the tree the peak time for harvest is gone and the resultant oil is of poorer quantity.
Despite this though there is no ideal stage at which to harvest the olives. When
deciding to create an oil the producer has to balance factors as shelf life (greatest in less ripe fruits), yield
The Traditional Method
The traditional method of olive picking involves combing the ripe fruit from
the tree into nets, or hand picking into baskets tied around the waist. Ladders are used to climb up into the
trees to reach the fruit.
This is the method that is mainly used on the holidays featured on this
website. It is a lovely relaxing way to harvest olives, the only sound being the gentle rattling as the ripe
olives fall to the ground.
The clip below shows the harvest taking place.
Mechanical pickers have in most places
replaced hand combing the olives from the tree, although there are increasing degrees of mechanisation of the
At its most low tech pickers like the one shown on the right use a long handled
vibrating tongs to remove the olives from the branches. The olives are collected in nets which have to be spread
underneath the trees by hand.
This image is takenfromolivetec who provide a range of olive
harvesting equipment which is detailed on their website.
The next stage in automation relies on a shaker bar fitted to the back of
a tractor. This shakes the tree from the trunk and prior to this unfurls a net around the base of the tree to
collect the olives.
Why not watch a video clip of
modern harvesting in action in Greece.
The mist is rising from the valley as we walk
down to the olive grove. In the distance the sound of the church bells rings out. We spread the nets
around the tree - keeping them close to the trunk to make sure the olives don't
fall through and get lost onto the ground below!