Last year we harvested the olives pretty early, the first couple of weeks in November and the oil was great, if a little peppery. This year we waited a little until the day after New Years day, the first week in January. This time is much busier for the olive presses too, with truckloads turning up all the time.
We have thirty two trees, some of which barely produced any olives and others which had masses. They say that the olives come every two years on a given branch, so that meant that what we picked last year, albeit with some help, would not produce this year. That seemed about right.
This year though, I decided to try without the help from locals (actually it was a Romanian woman with a German, an Albanian and a Syrian, so when I say local I mean it in the broadest possible sense.) There was certainly me, my wife and two friends who are both English. One pal was keen to help and the other had some experience and is around half my age. We had no picking machines, the rotating rubber blade thingies that run off generators. Just nets, long sticks and long plastic forks. Plus we bought a hundred woven plastic bags for thirteen Euros in Alex-Pak. No pick-up truck, just my Suzuki Wagon. No problem!
My pal with some experience suggested that we, in the process of pruning the trees, cut off the heavily laden branches of olives for my wife to strip on the nets. These branches would not produce next year and the trees do need a lot of pruning. It would also make it easier for my wife. In addition we had to take out the centre of the trees, remove all cross branches and so on. They say in Crete that if you lay under an olive tree with your head close to the trunk you should see only sky.
The three of us, me and my two pals, then started harvesting with nets under the trees and with the two sticks and the rake. It was actually quite fun. We were now taking part in something that has been happening for many thousands of years on this island. We went from tree to tree and in three days we were done, plus we had done some of the pruning as well.
Here is what we got: we took 365 Kilos of olives which created in the press 79 kilos of oil. With the cost of the press taken in oil (8.2 kilos) we ended up with 70.8 kilos of good, unpeppery oil. Excellent extra virgin oil taken direct from the olives. Since this is far too much for our own use plus even giving away a few bottles, we halved it and took 35 kilos home. The other 35 kilos we sold to the press and were given just over a hundred Euros which much more than paid for any labour and I still had plenty to pay for any help with the final pruning.
This was a huge advantage over last year when we ended up with only 33 kilos of oil and no pruning or anything else. And I have to say that it was an experience well worth doing. I and the others enjoyed it very much and it was really no sweat. Just easy and fun work. Well there is a little left to prune, the trees haven’t been pruned for around fifteen years, but we can do that now with no pressure, on just the days when the sun shines.
This is what it looks like: