We have finally completed our olive harvest this year as we had to break it up into two parts a week apart because we had so many olives. I am not complaining, more olives are great as they mean more delicious extra virgin olive oil for us. We had had a couple of hard years when the dreaded olive fly almost destroyed our entire crop, so when you have an abundant harvest of healthy fat olives, it truly is something to celebrate!
This year just my husband, myself, and our handyman Gino picked and though we could have used an extra pair of hands or two, the three of us work well together. Gino is an expert at laying the nets to ensure we do not lose any olives and is happy to climb right into the trees to pick the higher olives. With many of our hundred olive trees on steep slopes, laying the nets correctly is very important. Picking olives while trying to balance on the slopes is tricky as I found out a couple of years ago when I fell and ended up requiring surgery for a compound wrist fracture.
We have around a hundred olives trees total, including four different types of olives which gives the olive oil better flavor. Every year there are a few trees that just take a break and do not produce any olives, but they usually make up for it the following year. The ideal situation is to take your olives the day they are picked to the mill to be pressed, but that is just about impossible, so we usually pick two to three days worth before making a run to the francoia (olive mill). This year is the first year that we ended up making two trips, one week apart. We usually start picking as soon as the sun rises and continue to harvest until sunset each day allowing for a short lunch break. As you can imagine, it is hard work, but rewarding as well. Our total for both weeks was 2,200 pounds of olives which ended up as 130 liters of gorgeous green organic, extra virgin olive oil. The trees will now be trimmed and pruned throughout the winter months in anticipation for spring when the trees will sprout the tiny flowers that will end up as olives in the fall.
Harvest starts at sunrise!
Trying to pick the olives on a slope.
Laying of the nets is a science!
Our little Zoe was there to supervise every step of the way!
Some of our larger trees took hours to remove all of the olives they were so full.
Collecting the olives in the nets. I was the one that sorted the olives from the branches.
Day one of the harvest complete!
Emptying the olive crates into the large tubs at the mill.
Now the fun begins as our olives start the process of being turned into oil.
The olives go into a machine outside the mill that sorts them from any small branches and leaves.
The olives go one way and the leaves the other.
The olives next get a bath before moving into to the mill to be crushed.
Collecting the olives that will head into the mill for the next step. You can see the different varieties of olives by their color and size.
Frantoio Rinadulcci is fully automated and as clean as a surgical suite.
Another view of the equipment.
The olives being turned into pulp. The oil will then be extracted and separated from the solids.
The final product, liquid gold!
The oil going into our oil containers which keep the oil in the perfect temperature in our cellar.
My husband is very happy with both our yield and the flavor of the oil.
Here I am tasting the oil