Olive Picking in Evia
An olive picking is one of the most fascinating experiences you can enjoy in Greece in November. Last weekend we had the chance to live an experience like that in Evia. Close to Athens, ideal for short escapes and of course cycling.
The olive (botanical name: Olea europae) is an evergreen tree that has its origin approximately 6,000 -7,000 years ago in the Mediterranean region. The ancient Greeks used to smear olive oil on their bodies and hair as a matter of grooming and good health. Picking olives in Greece is a tradition that dates back generations! It is an annual ritual that takes part in November and it involves the entire village!
Olive harvesting is a family affair in much of Greece. It is often family members or friends living in cities who come to help pick the olives by hand. Therefore, the day should start with a good breakfast so that everybody can give their best in the olive grove.
When the olives have been picked on to the net, you have to roll them into a corner and remove the branches and large leaves from the piles of olives. Do not worry too much about the other leaves, as they will be removed by the vacuum at the oil press. We did that successfully, however slowly. And as they say, “It ain’t over till (or until) the fat lady sings”.
In our case, the “fat lady” was Maria, age 55 and grandma, who helped everyone and moved things on. She made everything look almost effortless, offering a childlike easiness to the process. This way, the day’s work progressed amidst gossip, jokes, and the pleasant sound of olives. Thanks Maria!
We managed to finish everything by sunset, then we gathered up the nets and put the olives in sucks for transportation. This work is physical and hard so we get a pretty good workout as well as appreciation for the work of farmers. The experience is amazing as we have the opportunity to work these fields and truly understand what is involved in making olive oil.
Sunday morning is here and we have the olives in our hands! It’ time to go to the oil press (eleotrivio). It is important to know that olives lose their flavor if they are stored for two to three weeks. So here we are!
At the oil press, the olives go through a few basic processes, all done mechanically – washing, grinding, mixing, pressing, separation and stocking. As you wait for your olives to be pressed, all the talk is about the oil percentage. You quickly get a tutorial in order to understand the numbers and maybe take part in the vivid discussions!
What’s the moral of the story?
A harvest trip is always a great way to get local knowledge! Helping out with the harvest is a great way to link travelers to food at its source and also experience the sights and way of life in the region. So, those lucky ones that get to experience it, get your hands dirty! And you’ll be rewarded! Olive pickers always get gastronomically treated! You can take home extra virgin oil and you can even adopt a tree!