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Picking-olives.jpg Harvest time
By: TB   (2013-05-18)

As the rainy season descends, we have been hard at work harvesting olives, which are destined for both the table and the pickling jar as well as for the press to be used for extra-virgin oil.

Manzanilla olives (the word means 'little apple' in Spanish) are initially harvested while green-yellow, then sorted by hand (our workers wear cotton gloves to minimise the risk of damaging the tender fruits) and sent for pickling. We now have some 500kg of these pickling – so-called ‘green’ – olives. The balance of the olives are left on the trees to ripen fully and the larger ones then hand-picked some four weeks later, when black and ripe. These, too, are pickled but we use a lengthier, gentler brining process. We have harvested around 300kg of these olives.

This year we are also experimenting with curing a small batch of black Manzanillas in coarse salt, without brine (an ancient curing technique)… watch this space for the results.

Finally, those last Manzanillas that are small for pickling are pressed for oil – we expect to produce 300 litres of this delicate, quite distinctive oil with the harvest.

Meanwhile, our Frantoio oil olives (a Tuscan cultivar) are now all harvested and pressed and the oil is presently settling in storage tanks. Normally, we try to harvest these when about 40% of the fruit is green-yellow, with the remainder black-ripe. This results in a lower oil yield (the greener the fruit, the better the quality but the lower the yield) but one that is rich in phenols (notice the slight catch at the back of your throat when tasting the oil), not to mention enhanced fruitiness and robustness. An unexpected cold snap in March, however, caused the fruit to ripen fast and early with the result that our harvest was balanced 30% green-yellow and 70% black-ripe olives. We are, therefore, expecting a slightly milder oil this year, less ‘grassy’ and more mellow in flavour.

Our Coratina oil olives (also of Tuscan origin), which have been ripening on the trees, are ready for picking this week, too. This cultivar typically ripens later than the other oil olives and usually gives the greatest yields (5kg of olives yields 1 litre of oil). Last year we had a substantial Coratina crop and, as olives tend to bear strongly in alternate years, this year the harvest will be smaller.

Our Mission table olives are usually the last to ripen but the afore-mentioned cold snap brought ours on prematurely so we have also begun their harvest. These trees are also bearing less this year having had their energy sapped by the 2012 bumper crop. The large Missions will be pickled in brine and the smaller will be pressed for their mild oil.

And, of course, our lucern harvest is also keeping us busy. The crop s mown every three to four weeks, weather depending. The challenge at this time of year is to decide when the fine weather ‘window’ will be long enough to cut, rake, dry and bale the lucern, and get it under cover before the rain sets in. As we move toward winter, the yield naturally reduces as the lucern growth slows. However, the nutritional value is as good as ever, which makes lucern one of the few green feedstocks available at his time of year – a superb fresh addition to the dry and stale wheat and oat hay brought out of storage to feed the animals during autumn and winter.













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