Post image for The olive harvest season in Istria has begun

The olive harvest season in Istria has begun

by Gogo on October 7, 2009

in Olive oils

Don’t tell me global warming does not exist. It has come to my grandmother’s olive grove near Medulin. It was only the first weekend in October and already half of the olives were black, the other half green (see the picture below). It is a sign to begin harvesting if one wants to obtain extravirgin olive oil of superior quality, full of fruity aromas and not dull to the taste buds.

Cleaning olives from leafs

Cleaning olives from leafs

Usually we harvest at least two weeks later, but the past summer was so hot and dry that the maturation was accelerated. So, we called our friends and family and in one day the fruits from some fifty olive trees have been picked and the same evening sent to olive mill.

Such a rush is necessary to get an excellent oil. If the olives are not processed within 24 hours, oxidative and fermentative processes start and the oil might not get the extravirgin status butmight get rancid smell and taste.

Like most families In Istria, we usually hand-pick the olives. To speed up the process,  the olives are detached from the branch using a small plastic rake.

The olives are harvested using a comb-like gadget

The olives are harvested using a small plastic rake

It is a lot of work and it would be a pain in the ass if you pick the olives alone, but in a good company the hours pass like minutes. It is a kind of repetitive activity where you do not need to think, instead you free your mind and just enjoy small talk with the comrades working on the same olive tree.

The olives fall in the net spread on the ground. When there are no more olives on the tree, the fruits are easily transferred from the net to plastic cases. A fully mature tree (at least 10 years old) can give up to 60 kg of olives.

The olives fall in the net

The olives fall in the net

On industrial scale the harvest is done using a device that shakes the branch so that the olives detach. This works nice for fully mature black olives, but hand-picking is usually the only way to harvest the green olives that are not so easily detached from the branch. But we need green olives are necessary to get an excellent oil. That is why olive oil produced by a large company can never be so good as the oil produced by a small scale farmer. As a nice example, look at the picture below.

This year the olives were perfectly healthy. The worst enemy of olives is the olive fly that likes to drill a hole in the fruit and then deposit an egg inside. As a consequence, the fruit oxidizes and ferments, and the oil gets a rotten and muddy smell. Using only biological treatment methods (pheromonic traps) I managed to avoid their attack. It is so nice to realize it is possible to avoid chemical treatments and have the same, if not better, quality of olives.

The job is done, and my grandmother is happy

The olive harvest is over and my grandmother is more than happy

This year we picked 980 kg of olives which is 40% percent more than the last year. I was shocked and happy when I heard these numbers! Such a large increase was possible mostly because we have ten younger trees that only this year reached their productive maturity. I can not tell you how my 83-years-old grandmother was happy that her work in the field was fruitful.

After the work, we had a copious and delicious lunch together. I do not want to make this post too long, so the food we have eaten is described in the next post.

Is it the olive oil, or the olive juice?

Is it the olive oil, or the olive juice?

The last picture is taken the same evening in Agroprodukt’s olive mill in Vodnjan. The essence of the work in the last 12 months is slowly dripping down from the stainless steel tube and I am just staring there, completely enchanted by the incredibly green and fluorescent color of this olive juice. I can not wait to taste it.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Clem October 18, 2009 at 15:15

Yeah new olive oil! But does your grandmother still really work in the field? That’s pretty amazing! I would be interested in learning more about the biological treatment you gave the trees against the fly.
By the way the new blog looks GREAT!


Gogo October 19, 2009 at 11:39

Yes, she is still active although she had two femore fractures in the last ten years. We tried to convince her to quit working and that we will do everything, but she is tough and can not stay seated the whole day.
The bio treatment is a combination of commercial traps for olive flyes (called Ecotrap) and homemade traps made of plastic bottles filled with strong vinegar and raspberry syrup.


Clem October 19, 2009 at 14:24

Strong vinegar and raspberry syrup, how could the flies resist such a cocktail! It think it’s great you can protect your olives without chemicals.
And massive respect to your grandma!


Gogo October 19, 2009 at 14:49

Massive respect to you Clem for the motivation you give me to write the posts. I think I should start writing in French so that you invite your friends to leave me some comments. I realized that our common friends are constantly reading manjada, but are too shy to leave ate least WOW! yummy
Do you know that I found on market in Pula something very similar to double créme. Like vrhnje in Zagreb, but thicker. Great for your quiche aux poireaux.


Clem October 20, 2009 at 12:42

You know that I ate something very similar to crème fraîche in Zagreb !!!! in one of those yuppy coffee places called Daily fresh, where we had a “fajita” served with cream that was really thick but not firm, with almost no sour taste (though it was written kiselo vhrnje on it). Now I will go look for it and make a quiche aux poireaux !


Gogo October 20, 2009 at 12:49

This is exactly what I found – thick vrhnje but not the sour one, almost the real french one. Check “Vesna sirevi” stand on Pula’s market, just across the fish market.


Clem October 21, 2009 at 13:42

Thanks for the tip!


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