This is only my second olive harvest photo shoot for this blog (with my first one being Olive harvest I) although I do have a great number of “sporadic” olive harvest photos taken at the spur of the moment as well as many, many images of olive trees and olive related topics.
This time Maria and her husband Nikos invited me to their grove and I could take photos at ease…that is without feeling like a crazy intruder (Thank you Maria and Nikos!!!).
Their property lies in the heart of the olive tree valley and it has many aged-old trees. The land abruptly ends with a steep gorge which changes the ground level creating an opening with a panoramic view on our neighboring city of Gargalianoi.
About olive harvest
In Messinia the olive harvest takes place in the winter, between October and January and there are 2 predominant varieties of olives: koroneiki and mavro-elia and there are some kalamon variety trees as well.
Picking the olives is no easy task!
First nets are laid under the tree (I love this moment when they are pulled behind like a regal robe…it looks so majestic…yet it is so humble) The tree is pruned and the cut off branches are taken to a special machine on site which helps separating the olives from the branches. Then the remaining branches on the tree are shaken, tapped and hit so the olives fall down into the nets. Traditionally, just like back in the ancient times, this is done by hand using sticks/poles to dislodge the fruit from the tree. Alternatively, some farmers use a vibrating machine which is attached to a branch to shake the olives into the nets below. Then the net has to gathered so the olives cluster together…( Another moment I love so much!…as on the photo right above and below). The olives are transferred by hand from the nets to a bucket and then to a sack (all the sacks are provided by the olive mill which will handle the olives).
From Olive to Oil
At the end of a hard day’s picking, the sacks are transported to the eliotrivio (mill) to join the queue down the street as all the local farmers arrive to weigh and process their olives. In order to produce the highest quality olive oil the crop must be pressed on the same day as picking.
At the mill, the olives are separated from the dirt, leaves and stones on a series of machines and conveyor belts, before being cleaned and weighed en route to the tolva (deposit) to be pressed. A sample is taken of the olives, with the bag being labelled and sent off to an external laboratory for testing. The farmer can be paid right then based on the weight of his olive oil or the olive oil can be deposited and as the price of the olive oil per litre fluctuates during the season the oil can be sold when it reaches a better price.
Once cleaned, the olives are ground to form a paste, which is then whisked in a mixing machine for 20-40 minutes so the oil develops its flavour from the paste. The mixture is heated to a maximum temperature of 89F which increases the yield and is still low enough to be considered “cold pressed”.
Next, the paste is sent through a horizontal centrifuge, a cylindrical container that is rotated at high speeds, to separate the solid from the liquid. The next step is to separate the liquid, which is made up of both water and olive oil, by passing it through a vertical centrifuge. Once this final process is completed, all that’s left is the olive oil, which is then stored in huge, temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks, each of which can hold up to 50,000 kg of olive oil!
The farmer can be paid right then based on the weight of his olive oil or the olive oil can be deposited and as the price of the olive oil per litre fluctuates during the season the oil can be sold when it reaches a better price or it can be bottled after it has been left to decant (naturally) in the tanks for a few weeks.
Did you know?
You need 4-5 kg of olives to produle 1 litre of oil.
77% of the world production is coming from the Medditerranean and 93% of this production comes from 3 countries: Spain, Italy and Greece.
Peloponnese and Crete hold 65% of the total olive oil production in Greece.Greece holds the 3rd place in olive oil production globally and 1st in the extra virgin olive production as 82% of the total olive oil production in Greece is EXTRA VIRGIN.
Greece exports over 50% of its olive oil but only 5% of this olive oil is labeled as Greek …most of the olive oil is sold, un-bottled, in containers and mixed with other olive oils and re-sold under foreign labels.The main variety of olive trees cultivated in Greece is koreneiki and it comes from Corone (Koroni) a city in Messinia. These olives are rather small but produce a high quality of olive oil with very smooth taste and a golden green color.
Worldwide the olive oil consumption per capita is the highest in Greece and it reaches 20-24 litres per year!!! KALI OREXI!