Table olives are hand-harvested so that there is no visible bruising in the finished product. Oil olives can be harvested by hand but are more typically mechanically harvested. For large trees of traditional varieties, the majority of the olives are shaken off with trunk shakers and sometimes fruit removal is enhanced by simultaneously knocking the fruit off with long poles. Some smaller-scale growers remove the fruit with electric, pneumatic, or hand-held rakes/combs.
There are various methods for gathering the fallen fruit: simply raking it up off of the orchard floor (produces very low-quality oil), catching the fruit on nets spread on the ground, or various types of catch frames. The most modern harvest system uses large machines that drive over the top of the trees and catches the fruit as it falls. These over-the-row harvesters come in two sizes: the "colossus" harvester is used for flat farms for very large, widely spaced trees of any variety, whereas the smaller harvester can be used in the slightly hilly ground in a super high-density system of specific varieties.
Did you know that
Harvesting green olives for the production of extra virgin oil is much more intensive and costly for farmers than that of black olives. This is because the green olives are unripe and still hold onto the olive tree very firmly.
Farmers are always looking for the perfect method and while equipment plays an important role, so do the elements of nature; farmers need to know how to read their surroundings to make sure they harvest their crops at the right time. Once the olives are harvested, they need to be pressed within just a few hours for the oil to be of high quality freshness.