When the olive oil crop starts?
It may seem trivial, but few know that green and black olives are the same thing, only the degree of ripeness changes.
The same olives follow a precise ripening rhythm and, according to the period in which we collect them, they will give the oil very different characteristics.
Herbaceous stage: at this stage (usually towards the end of August), the olives are like you typically imagine them. They have bright green skin and pulp, are hard, and contain low amounts of oil;
Veraison: It is the process that leads the olive to change color depending on the stage of ripeness gradually. It then goes from green to a faded purple, ending with an intense black. It is halfway through veraison that we record the best time for the harvest: olives contain a high percentage of polyphenols, a lot of oil, and fruity, bitter, and spicy notes;
End of veraison: Here, the olives are almost entirely black. In this period, we obtain sweeter and more delicate oils.
Complete ripening: When the olives are entirely black, they contain much less water and therefore have a better yield, even if qualitatively lower;
How is a qualitatively “mature” olive recognized?
In addition to simple color, there are many other methods to determine the right time of harvest:
Agronomic: here, you don’t need special tools but the experience. For example, we judge the color, the hardness of the pulp, and the strength of resistance to detachment;
Technological: technologies help us a lot today. With special tools, we can determine the oil yield on dry weight, acidity, and phenolic content;
Traditional: only the color is judged, but this does not give us information about the quality and condition of the field.
Giving a purely general view, the best time to harvest the olives is immediately after the middle of veraison when the color change is 50/60%: it is at this moment that the olives contain more oil and phenolic substances.
Let’s start with the natural harvesting techniques:
Hand crop: In this case, the olives are harvested by hand directly from the tree. This allows us to select only those that have reached the proper ripeness without damaging them and affecting their properties;
Beating: This technique is used when the tree is too large to be harvested by hand. Thanks to special tools( like long wooden sticks), we make the ripe olives fall on a cloth, obtaining a very high-quality extra virgin olive oil;
Combing: As the name suggests, with this technique, we “comb” the branches of the olive trees, making the olives fall on special sheets.
Natural Falling: It was mainly used in areas with too high trees. This method consists of waiting for the olives to fall to the ground and then picking them up. This method was more widespread in the past. The olives that have fallen to the ground usually have a high degree of ripeness; for this reason, they begin to ferment and rot after a few days. Using this type of olive generally gives rise to poor-quality oils, not suitable for food consumption.
In some cases, however, the help of machinery is needed. Here then, are the mechanical harvesting techniques:
Shaking: Thanks to the help of a mechanical arm that grips the olive tree trunk without damaging it, we “shake” the tree and let the ripe olives fall onto special sheets.