- Harvesting olives from the trees

The high quality oils are obtained by hand picking the olives directly into a basket the best method of all but the least efficient and so the most costly. Picking “by hand with a net” is the next best method, with 50% more production resulting than when just a basket is used. By hand with a net, with the help of plastic rakes and sometimes long wooden sticks, is probably the most common method in Sparta.

Olive harvesting for those who have a few hundred trees or less is a family affair in much of Greece
Girl play at harvest time

The weather at the time of harvest is of great importance, and experienced farmers know when it’s the right moment to start - before the wet, cold days of fall set in. It’s impossible to pick olives in rain, wind, or fog for many reasons: besides the obvious dangers and difficulties of climbing trees and ladders in wind and rain, moisture can cause the olives to spoil in their crates before they are taken to the mill, for pressing. Fortunately, Greece is usually blessed with many splendid, sunny days for harvesting olives.

Usually, one to three people work on a tree, first laying down the net, which is slit in the middle, like a pair of pants, so that it fits nicely around the base of the tree, like a bib. Nowadays the nets are made of nylon, but years ago, burlap was used. One person starts on the upper branches, while the other(s) work on the lower ones. With your hands - you slide the olives gently down the branch, as if sliding beads off a necklace, and just allow them to drop where they may onto the net below. Both the green and the black are harvested; a mix of the two makes for the most flavorful olive oil.  

Olive harvesting for those who have a few hundred trees or less is a family affair in much of Greece. Hiring workers is difficult due to the endemic lack of young people in rural areas nowadays and strict labor and immigration laws. So, it is often family members or friends living in cities who come to help pick the olives by hand. It’s a great way to get together and give a hand to the farmers, who are often elderly and proud and very attached to their beloved olive trees. People love this experience and help vigorously and whole-heartedly, often with more enthusiasm than the locals. These gatherings are usually filled with warmth and joy - especially during lunches, where, depending on the weather, cured meats such as salsicce, lombetto, prosciutto crudo and cheese are served, with plenty of local wine and delicious bread. On cold days, a warm spelt soup, garbanzo bean soup or cannellini or borlotti bean soup, regenerates the old and the young. The reward is the joy of being in nature and a part of the magnificent countryside, having some fun and eventually, after the pressing, collecting at least a few bottles of that green elixir that everybody here simply calls… “Ladi”

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