Olive harvest time

Ripe olivesI am very aware of seasonal changes since we became involved in a horticultural enterprise. Our lives are governed by the growth, ripening and harvest of our various tree crops, and now it’s the turn of the olives. It may seem strange that anything ripens through autumn – but for olives we usually pick in early June. Last year the olives were not ripe until July and I felt unsettled by the departure from the usual pattern. This year we are back to the usual pattern and I feel much better!

Are there any things in your own life – apart from the weather – that tell you the season has changed?

Feed the hungry

Harvesting the olives is once again underway – we had a three-week pause while we waited for the olives to further recover from the hard frost of mid-May, and to ripen a bit more.

Each weekend day the grove is a hive of activity, with olives being shaken, combed and picked from the branches; nets being dragged along the ground, laden with fruit; and the fruit gathered from the nets into trays ready to be taken away on the tractor. The kitchen is a hive of activity too. Here’s what was on the menu last Saturday:

Leek and potato soup

Freshly baked bread rolls

Home baking – oaty choc-chip cookies, prune loaf and Jenny’s brownie

…and fruit to finish off with.

Here’s a photo of the table before the hungry hordes descended:

Unfortunately I never remember to take an “after” shot to go with the “before” one! However I do have this photo of some of the hungry hordes!

Gathering up the net ready to drag it along to the next trees.

Olive Harvest begins

It was only 9.05 on Saturday morning, but already the 2012 olive harvest was underway. We started with our Leccino and Pendolino olives, always the first to ripen. We have 119 of these trees – mostly Leccino.

The picking team of 14 people included our niece and her mum. In 8 years of olive harvesting, this is the very first time we have been successful in getting any family to come along. Thank you, Lucy & Rose, for breaking this dubious trend – and long may your involvement continue!

While one group is picking with rakes and fingers, Jonno (who has appeared anonymously on this blog before) was operating our branch-shaking machine on other trees. Together, these techniques netted (there’s a pun there, if you look closely at the photo above) nearly 20 kg of fruit from each tree.

The next job was to sort out the twigs and leaves. The press has a blower to remove most of the leaves, but those still attached to twigs or fruit are generally too heavy for this, and a hand-sort is more effective.

Once the picking was over for the day (with liberal applications of food and drink applied at two-hourly intervals) we sent 824 kg off to be pressed. 42 trees had been picked – so it was back again the following day for a dedicated team of 7 who continued the job. Even after two days and a total of 1339 kg harvested, there are still more Leccino to pick (not to mention the other cultivars as well). There will be two or three more weekends of harvest to come!