From olive picking to extra vigin olive oil

I have always wanted to do this: to experience the olive oil process. From the olive harvest all the way to the pressing. Well, now that i finally have a beautiful place in Tuscany with a garden that’s more like a park and has 153 olive trees on it!

 

Green olives, black olives, purple olives, or brown olives?

The olives before and after. It is easy to see that olives do not turn black, but get a dark purple and sometimes brownish colour during the ripening process. And in case you were wondering – the colour classes go from 0 to 7.

olive picking Tuscany

olives in August

olive picking

olives in November

A while ago, I asked a villa owner when is the best time is to pick. His answer was more simple than expected: “if you see that your neighbors are picking.” Why think difficult when it can be simple?

 

Ready to pick, go!

Fortunately, some Tuscan villas VIP partners and friends were willing to help, it is still a learning process for me! I love how helpful Italians are. They are so proud of their culture and traditions that my Italian friends explain everything with joy. After all, they already have an 5000 years experience of olive picking! Well, in a manner of speaking. As a starting olive farmer I am going to harvest my first fruits today and that is something to be proud of.

Olive picking Tuscany 

We have one electric olive shaker. The others are picking by hand. This takes a bit more time but it’s a nice outside job under the Tuscan sun. The acrobatic moves to pick the tops of the olive trees look pretty cool. We try to put the nets in a way that 2 trees can be harvested at once. This is not easy. The hilly landscape makes it necessary to make traps so that the olives do not roll down the hill.

We pick out the leaves and twigs as much as possible before the olives go into the crates. With many hands the job is done in no time.

Making our way to the press!

The greener the better? The later the olives are picked, the more oil they contain. If you pick them ‘greener’ (earlier or trees that have had less sun), the more intense the taste, said the family of these large olive chests with more green olives than ours. So actually personal taste has a big part in deciding when to pick them. Fortunately my neighbour advised us to reserve the ‘Frantoio’ far in advance. During the whole month of November, the pressings are logically packed. So planning in this case is necessary, because within 24 hours after harvest the olives have to go to the press to guarantee all odours and the authenticity of the oil. We are at Frantoio Il Maiono, a press shop with a modern centrifuge technique that can extract up to 95 percent of the oil from the fruit. Here we see the process from olive to extra virgin olive oil, what a fun and educational experience!

  1. The olives are on their way to the mill! On the way they pass the ‘defoliator’ and the washing machine to remove impurities.
    2. Clean as they are, they set out for the ‘Gramole’, where the oil will be separated from pulp by pressure.

3. ‘Il GRAMOLE’ performs the task of the authentic stone mill these days. This is the most important part, because it is the defining part where the yield is determined.

The traditional millstones are still used occasionally, in the past also in the frantoio where we are now. The olives in this case are heated and crushed between the two mill stones.

4. Now that there is only the homogenous mass left, the mechanical extraction (separation) starts, by centrifugation, in order to eventually only is left with the oil. The road from fruit to oil eventually ends in the decanter. Through the pump we see it coming our way: our home made Tuscan extra virgin olive oil!

5. Pack up and go! The lines are long, the olive presses are running over hours. So we make way for the next olive farmers.

Grazie a tutti!

A special thanks to my help and how could I do that better than giving a barbecue in the garden with local Chianti Rufina wine and extra home made virgin olive oil!

 

In the picture!

Do you also want to experience the olive harvest in the heart of Italy? There are several places where this is possible. For example, help Claudio with the olive harvest at his villa in the hills near the Tuscan coast!