So the time has come to harvest our olives, exciting…and a little bit daunting! It’s a serious business here in Granada, almost a way of life! We are surrounded by olive trees in all directions and live approximately 20kms as the crow flies from Preigo De Cordoba; The ‘Mecca’ for Olive Oil. An extra virgin olive oil brand from Preigo De Cordoba has been voted as the best olive oil in the world. Spain is the biggest producer of olive oil in the world and is led by the Andalucia province, phew!
The locals here started putting their nets under their olive trees just before Christmas and the area’s population has been temporarily boosted by itinerant olive pickers. Our olive trees had been left to grow wild for a few years, so were a far cry from the perfectly pruned specimens that surround us. Through November we cleared the ground, pruned and cut down some of the olive free suckers sprouting from the trunk bases and prepared for picking.
We have some previous experience with the olives, raking them from the trees in France and a pruning and picking method in Portugal, all by hand. Here in Andalucia it’s on a larger scale, tractors, mechanical tree shakers and crews of olive pickers with large nets to catch their precious cargo.
Mostly we see pairs of workers arrive each morning in their 4×4’s with a trailer in tow. One of the workers will choose a branch and shake the olives from the tree with a hand held pnumatic olive harvester. The colleague then beats the tree with a pole to remove any olives which managed to hang on. Surprisingly there were not always nets on the ground, the olives were raked into a pile and scooped up into their trailer.
It was clear to us, with our overgrown trees, one of which is surrounded by spiky giant aloe plants, that we would need to use a mixture of picking methods; including simply picking the olives by hand, pruning wild branches from the ladder, climbing the trees and beating the highest olives onto our groundsheet below.
There seemed to be some great olives, huge black glossy clumps of olives which would fall away from the branches, plopping into the bucket below. Other trees seemed to be a little bare in places. The boys were both great helpers and enjoyed picking and collecting the olives, with the odd distraction of course! Our tubs gradually filled until we had five 42L flexi tubs mostly filled.
As the tubs were filled by 5pm we felt it was no time like the present to take our olives to be weighed in the local village, as they would now be re-opening after siesta. It was a family outing to the Olive Co-operative. The passenger seat and boot of the car were filled with olives, so I squeezed in the back, inbetween the two child seats, with my head touching the roof. Luckily the weighing machinery is not too far and we were soon tipping the olives onto the conveyor belt, the result… 108kgs a potential return of 15-20Litres of oil, or you could opt for the money. The oil would not be our own oil but a mixture of local olives from a co-operative. Olive oil is on a big scale here so it is very rare to find a press that will just produce your own oil.
We had to wait for a week to find out if our olives were good enough. A sample was sent off to Preigo De Cordoba and analysed before they would agree to buy our olives. Luckily, ours were good enough, we got the green light and they bought our olives! A week and a half later we went to pick up our extra virgin olive oil and were lucky enough to receive the equivalent of 17 litres of liquid gold!
So rich and beautiful to taste! A golden extra virgin olive oil. We also kept some olives to preserve in jars, method and recipe to follow soon!