EVOO: Harvest and Production

 

  • The Collection


There are a variety of collecting systems, depending on the area, the characteristics of the olive tree and the pruning technique.


In olden days, the olive harvest was an activity involving the entire community. In a festive atmosphere, while the men beat or shook the olive branches to release the olives, the women picked them up from the ground and placed them in baskets.


The process continued with the haulers, who carried the olives to the oil mill. The women brought them sacks full of olives, which the haulers loaded onto mules. The figure of the manijero, or foreman also played an important role, as he directed the group to properly work together.


These tasks made the olive harvest a family and communal process, which has been disappearing as the result of mechanization. Moreover, today's demand for virgin olive oil requires rapid processing of the product.


The maturation stage of the olives takes place in November, although it can extend into December or January. The traditional way of harvesting was to allow the olives to mature until they fell to the ground on their own. A roller with spikes was used to collect them, after which the olives were immediately cleaned, separating the fruit from the soil and leaves.

This process is still used today, but with the difference that the olives do not touch the ground.

  • Olive Cultivation


Cultivated olive trees are the result of the selection and plant propagation of wild olive trees that have a shrub-like appearance, oval-shaped leaves and smaller sized fruit. These trees belong to the Olea Eurapaea L species. The farming of these trees has firmly established itself on the Iberian peninsula since the times of the Roman Empire.

  • The Harvest


Several basic things should be taken into consideration for a proper harvest, including a preference for the Mediterranean climate, and the fact the olives do not weigh more than 5 grams, except for varieties such as the gordal. Olive trees are a quite rustic species, and cultivating them is quite simple.

Optimum olive production factors include:

-Water

-Light

STEPS:


1) LOCATION


Choose the area properly. Trees heavily depend on the sun for forming their fruit. It is important to chose an area with moderate winters, where temperatures do not fall below -5ºC, given that freezes are harmful. They may also suffer from dry heat or excessive humidity.


*In areas with little rainfall, if the ground shows the tendency to retain water or if subject to heavy rain, an adequate drainage system is necessary.


2) ARRANGEMENT


Depending on whether or not the farming is intensive.

Traditional arrangement: Trees are separated by 7*7 meters, 6*8 meters, and 10*10 meters.

Dynamic arrangement: Trees are separated by 5*6 meters and 6*6 meters.


3) SOIL PREPARATION


The soil must be prepared before the trees are planted, removing any possible roots from other trees. Cultivating legumes or some kind of grains beforehand is useful, as they tend to eliminate roots from earlier harvests. Plough the soil several times before performing a soil analysis. Then add the most appropriate fertilizers.



  1. 3) PLANTING


Planting should be carried out at one or another time of the year, depending on the climate where the planting is being done.

Areas with a warm climate: Months of November or December

Areas with a colder climate: Months of February or March


In dry soils: End of winter

In moist soils: Spring, with the trees planted 10 meters apart.

Plough every year, fertilize with manure and phosphates during the maturation period of the fruit (month of September or October)


4) PRUNING


Control the size and foliage level of the tree.

Pruning is done in order to help the olive trees properly adapt to the local climate, and also to increase their production capacity.


There are three types of pruning:

-Shaping or forming type (Determines the tree's structure)

-Production type (This is used to allow sunshine into the tree, helping the branches form fruit)

-Renovation type (Stimulates the new sprouts in order to strengthen the tree)


OBSERVATION:

Diseases are usually caused by weather accidents, especially freezes, long droughts or thaws.

 

TRADITIONAL METHOD:


A) DEFOLIATION 

Either the hand or a scraper is passed over the clusters, such that the olives fall off.


B) THE RASQUETA, or SCRAPER

A tool in the form of a comb, which is used as a defoliation implement.


C) THE VAREO, or SHAKING DOWN OF THE OLIVES

This is done by beating the branches with varas, or long sticks, so that the olives fall off. Fine-net blankets are arranged beneath the trees to catch the olives and keep them off the ground. They are then placed into wicker or esparto grass baskets, and finally into large bags.


D) PERMANENT NETS


This is especially recommendable for olive trees planted on hillsides.


The goal here is to let the olives fall from the tree naturally. These fine-net blankets are set up during the maturation period. The risk here is that the fruit remains on the tree too much time, and overly matures.



MECHANICAL SYSTEMS:


E) MECHANICAL ARMS


This is a device that is attached to the olive tree branches, mechanically shaking them. Sometimes a net is also used to catch the olives as they fall.

Some fruit may remain on the tree after finishing with this technique, so that the job is finished manually.


At times mechanical arm harvesting cannot be used in areas that are difficult to access.

Depending on the soil, the plantation can be one of three types:

-On contours, or level curves

-On terraces

-On ridges


Cultivation should follow the basic guidelines listed below:

-Pruning and trimming (Depending on the age, variety and vegetative state of the tree)

-Soil maintenance (with minimal ploughing)

-Plant health controls and soil fertilization

-Irrigation (In areas with little rainfall)

Ideal soil conditions:

-Olive trees are highly resistant to limy soils.

-Olive trees need plenty of sunlight, the lack of which could reduce olive production.


Propagation method:

Currently, the most commonly used method is vegetative reproduction.

5) IRRIGATION


There are several factors that bear on the frequency with which the trees should be watered.


The underside of olive leaves have a layer that protects them while limiting water loss in hot, dry climates.


Water is a critical element in olive cultivation, with production notably increasing if irrigation is done in appropriate quantities.

The bigger the harvest, the greater the need to increase the quantity of water, yet one should always be careful to avoid excess accumulation of dampness in the soil. Proper irrigation is therefore highly important, especially when little rain falls in spring and autumn - leaving dry soil as a result - and also with soil having little water retention capacity (such as sandy or gravelly soil).


Lack of water can have negative effects, when, for example, the fruit is developing. Excessive watering, on the other hand, can lead to delayed maturation with black olives.


Swampy or waterlogged land can lead to damaged roots, and even to the death of the olive tree.