Olive picking starts early in Portugal, as the season begins in November. We have now picked olives in France, Portugal and Spain. Each experience has been very different. In France olives are raked with small hand combs into the nets below. In Southern Spain olives aren’t picked until after Christmas, and generally involve tree shakers and electric rakes on a on a grand scale, or trees are raked, shaken and picked by hand for personal use. Olive oil in Spain is big business and very lucrative. In the Granada region of Andalucia there are miles upon miles of olive grove, brand new tractors and machinery and lots of itinerant workers paid to pick the olives.
In Portugal the olive harvest seems to be on a much smaller scale than Granada. Olive trees are heavily pruned every couple of years and the fallen branches are picked. The olive harvest here seems to be much more of a family and community event and rather than getting ‘group oil’ from a co-op, the aim is to receive oil, from your own olive trees. If you are able to pick enough olives for your chosen largar’s requirements (from 350-600 kilos) for an individual press, you can end up with your own unique and individual oil.
After a long dry Portuguese summer, the olives are ready to go and the harvest begins in early November when the largar (olive mills) open. Willing workers travel from quinta to quinta, helping out in exchange for labour, food, accommodation and of course for the good stuff; the liquid gold, cold pressed extra virgin olive oil.
We helped out at a friend’s quinta. who is part of a local co-op that we have joined. A wonderful way to integrate with the communiy, help out new friends and hitch a ride with the afternoon’s haul on the quinta’s tractor!
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