Harvesting Methods

We are proud to be part of a California legacy dating back 300 years to the Spanish who brought the first olive trees to California. We’re building on that rich heritage and California history by using the latest methods in olive cultivating and collecting. The key to making high-quality olive begins in knowing the right moment to harvest olives. The ripeness of the olives at the time of harvest ultimately determines how the olive oil will taste. Greener olives generally have an intense grassy flavor and less oil. More mature, purple olives will have a milder buttery flavor and produce more oil that tends to be golden in color. Once the olives are at the desired ripeness, it’s crucial to harvest as quickly as possible to ensure the quality of the olive oil is as consistent as possible. Most producers are racing to get the perfect balance of maturity of their fruit before the first frost of the year, after which the olives might not pass the sensory and chemistry tests necessary in making extra virgin olive oil. It’s important to remember that great tasting extra virgin olive oil starts with high quality, well-grown olives. If olives are allowed to over-ripen becoming too mature, they will be less likely to pass the strict extra virgin olive oil quality tests. There are two main ways to harvest olives for olive oil, hand harvest and machine harvest. There are producers who make excellent extra virgin olive oil using each of these harvesting methods. No harvesting method is better than the other; the quality of the olive oil is ultimately determined by how the process is executed.

 

  • Drawing of a person harvesting olives for extra virgin olive oil by hand

    Hand Harvest

    Hand harvesting olives is the most traditional and common methods of picking olives. This harvesting method is done by hand, with rakes, and vibrating rakes that shake the fruit into nets either suspended above the ground or laid down on the ground. This method makes sense for a lot of small farms or farms located on mountainsides. Their trees generally are taller and more spread out, making hand harvesting their only option. Harvesting by hand can be labor intensive and expensive. For California olive growers, harvesting costs are their largest expense each year, forcing them to charge a high price for their olive oil.

  • a illustration of California Olive Ranch's harvesting method using machines.

    Machine Harvest

    California Olive Ranch innovated this method to make extra virgin olive available to more people around the United States without sacrificing quality. Harvesting olives with over-the-top harvesters allows olive oil producers to harvest at their perfect ripeness. This method aims to minimize any damage to the fruit by never letting the olives touch the ground, and by turning the olives into extra virgin olive oil as quickly as possible. This method requires particular olive varietals and tree spacing in order to work with the over-the-top harvesters. This method is now used around the world.

After Harvest

The basic procedure for making olive oil has remained the same for thousands of years: harvest the olives at the right time, crush them into paste, separate the solids from the liquid, and further separate the water from the oil. The method of extraction has a distinct effect on the flavor and ultimate quality of the olive oil. The mechanical process has undergone numerous changes and refinements that have increased both productivity and quality.