A few words on harvesting olives
Harvesting our beloved olives is one- but definitely not the only- of the most important practices in an olive grove. Here, in Sarakina Estate, we usually get started around the beginning to mid of October, which is when our olives are still a bit unripe. Besides the farmers themselves, it is primarily the location and climate of the olive grove that dictate when the crop is ready. What you need to keep in mind is that harvesting the olives quite early results in the production of high-quality products, rich in aromas and health benefits. The only disadvantage concerns the producer and has to do with producing a bit less olive oil, since the fruits are unripe and less juicy. As consumers though, we are winning big time by choosing early harvest, organic, extra virgin olive oils. Furthermore, harvesting early does the olive trees a great good since without the energy and nutrition-consuming job of nurturing the precious fruits, the trees receive some extra time to rest before starting again the production of the next crop.
Besides that, as organic and conscious farmers we choose to harvest our olives relatively early, when they start turning from green to purple, in order to protect our favorite fruits from fungal related diseases, quite common in our humid island, and harmful insects. Contrary to chemical farmers who, while waiting for their fruits to mature and produce a bit more oil, they spray their crops time and again with dangerous substances, we choose to protect our crop by harvesting early and thus limiting the exposure to threats to the bare minimum. We might lose a bit in quantity but we and you both win in the highest quality.
The very procedure of harvesting comes with its own equipment. One can’t do without several olive harvesting nets; these specially made, large nets that are set around and under the trees that are about to be harvested. The basic idea here is to shake off the olives and let them drop in the nets. The style of course varies according to the times and technological advances. One of the most technologically informed and tree-friendly means of harvest is by the use of an electric olive harvester; That’s a specially designed vibrating aluminum or plastic comb, that shakes the tree’s branches just enough to drop the olives in the harvesting nets, yet minimize the loss of leaves.
During the harvest season, when the exact time of harvest is crucial and we’re all in a bit of a hurry to collect the olives relatively early and unripe, we always collaborate with other local farmers. Our co-workers, them too following the changing times, are using electric olive harvesters and do little if any pruning at this time of the season. What usually follows next is cleaning the olive grove of the pruned branches and applying organic, copper fungicides, two very important tasks that we’re permanently in a hurry to accomplish, with the precious help of our enduring, small tractor.
Another basic rule we follow is the quick transportation- and certainly within 24 hours- of the olive fruits to the olive -press factory. This is a really important factor concerning the quality of the final product since the longer the olives sit in the rucksacks, the more the temperature rises and the fermentation and deterioration of the fresh fruits begin. This is why the rucksacks we use are made of natural fabric which allows for air-circulation. Once our olives are collected, with the valuable help of our seasonal co-workers, they go straight to a selected olive press factory of cold extraction, one that must definitely own an organic certification. It’s around this time that the farmer steps beside in a sense, and allows for the olive press factory to play an equally important part in the production of an excellent final product. We will soon discuss further what “cold extraction” means and all about the olive press procedure.
In conclusion, as far as harvesting goes, there are many different parameters one needs to keep in mind when aiming for an excellent quality product and many more the usual yet radical changes in the programme due to the only one truly in charge: the weather. Under normal but lately quite rare circumstances, during October and November and really during all the winter months, Zakynthos has always been a humid island where it rains a lot! It’s no exception to wait up to 3 days for the rainfall to stop, the trees to dry and for the harvesting procedures to begin again. At least it didn’t use to be the exception. Lets hope that somehow all the scientists predicting droughts and other extreme weather phenomena in this part of the world, due to the dramatic man-made climate change we’re only beginning to witness, are proven wrong. We’re always hoping for some rain, now it seems more than ever, since Zakynthos again this summer excelled in arson induced forest fires and tourist arrivals. Rain and reforestations are, among many others, what we’re hoping for.
Stay tuned for more…