The Olive Harvest - November 2010

I live in Almeria, Spain and we're fortunate enough to have a small olive grove of 28 trees. We've just started the harvest for this year and the first day's pick resulted in 208 kilos which produced 33 kilos of extra virgin olive oil. There are plenty more olives still to be picked, so we're expecting a bumper year.

Friends came round to help and the weather was perfect: bright and sunny, temperatures around 22 degrees with not a scrap of wind. We'd experienced quite a bit of wind in the days preceding and were worried the olives would all be on the ground, but no, it has proved to be an excellent crop. We spread nets beneath the tree to catch any that drop-off, collected our bucket and set to work. We might have to knock with sticks to shake down the olives from the high branches, but mainly we pick by hand, raking them off with our fingers.

The fun part is that we get to climb some of the old trees, as we used to do when we were children, although a ladder is generally safer.

Then after a morning’s hard work we all sat down to a good lunch of chilli and rice, followed by apple and rubarb crumble and several bottles of wine to wash it down.

After a rest we went back for another few hours of picking.

By late afternoon David, with two of the men, loaded the crop of olives into the trailer, then went off to the press that same day in order to get extra virgin olive oil.

David unloaded the olives at the press

The cooperativa press at Lubrin.

It was a fun day and resulted in five litres of olive oil for everyone who helped us pick, plus plenty left over for us to sell later.

Table olives
There are various types of olive:mazanillas; picuales; de agua; andacebuches, which is the wild olive. Its fruit is smaller and is used as a root stock for grafting the more delicate modern olives on to. It grows slowly but will give you a tree that will survive the worst excesses of heat and drought and cold. We have several of these trees in our grove as well as the more modern variety. Apparently the wild olive also makes good walking sticks.

Some people think that there are just two types of olives: green and black. Not so. Green olives for eating are picked first, in October, but you can’t eat them direct from the tree. You steep them in spring water with no chlorine, changing it every day, stirring the fruit a little, for 3 or 4 weeks. They will still taste bitter but not so bad. Next you make up a seven per cent brine solution – 70 grams of salt to a litre of water and place the olives in the solution. You can store them this way for as long as you like, but to finish them off for eating, you rinse the salt away in a dozen or so changes of water and then pack the rinsed olives into jars. You can add garlic or herbs such as thyme, fennel or oregano, if you wish. Top up with olive oil and leave for a week – then start eating.


  1. Fascinating Freda! And I spot a very well-known face hiding in the tree there. Hi, Lyn!

  2. Sounds lovely, Freda! I love olives of all types, so my mouth was watering as I read your post. It must be wonderful to have your own freshly-pressed olive oil.