Olive cultivation is relatively speaking,
easy. It requires no specific farming care and the most
difficult thing is collecting the fruit. It has been calculated
that the gathering of olives takes 60% of the total cultivation
costs of olives!
The harvesting of olives used to be done by
hand. The olives were allowed to drop and then they were
collected. For those olives which didn’t fall, the tree was
shaken or hit with a stick until they did and then the women,
who usually had this tiring job, collected them and put the
fruit in baskets or panniers as can be seen in ancient Greek and
Byzantine pictures. This method does not produce a good quality
of oil. The traditional way of harvesting olives in areas of
large production was the one using the stick. Special sticks
were used to beat the trees so that the olives fell into special
tarpaulins or nets that had been placed under the tree. In some
areas with relatively small levels of production, it was
customary to “pluck” the branches, in other words, to pull the
olives off by hand and place the fruit in big baskets. This is
probably the best method as you then do not bruise the olive,
but this way would be impossible for large-scale harvesting.
Recent years have seen the
appearance of some machines for harvesting purposes. These use the idea
of a mechanized stick beating the tree, thus helping production to
increase. There are small, plastic sticks which rotate on the machinery.
They release the olives from the branches and the fruit fall down onto
the prepared nets. Olives were taken to the oil press in large sacks in
the old days. However, they lose their value if kept in these sacks for
many days. It has therefore been established that olives need to be
pressed one or two days after having been harvested. Nowadays, olives
are transferred in plastic boxes, which do not bruise or press the fruit
and are taken to the press on the same day they are collected.