It's Harvest time at Eagle Bay Olives
Updated: May 8, 2019
It's busy, busy, busy in our olive grove with attention turning toward harvesting of this year's bumper olive crop!
Our green Manzanillo olives were hand harvested in March for table fruit. Then, in April, it was on to the Kalamatas, also hand harvested to avoid bruising and to maintain the quality of table olives that Eagle Bay Olives is renowned for.
Now, we have just started to harvest the oil varieties which will become our magnificent extra virgin olive oil. Fresh from the grove to the bottle – it doesn't get fresher than that. It's amazing to watch the mechanical harvester in action. Once manoeuvred into position it shakes the tree with a very intense vibrating motion to release the fruit. The fruit falls almost directly from the tree to land into what resembles a large upside down umbrella which captures the olives, saving them from damage and bruising. Any remaining fruit is despatched with hand-held Pneumatic rakes.
Sounds easy – well if there's one thing we can be thankful for it's that here in Australia we have had the opportunity to do things right in the first place with regard to tree spacings, pruning methods, etc, ready for mechanical harvesting. We have inherited nothing from generations before and this is a unique advantage!
However, a lot of thought has to go into the tree shape and pruning to ready the trees for mechanical harvesting. It's important to have a single, clear, straight trunk of 1.0 to 1.5 metres from the ground. This allows enough room for the harvester to safely and efficiently grip the tree. It also allows room to spread the catching apron/umbrella around the tree.
The harvested olives are taken immediately to the nearby mill to be processed within 24 hours of picking. The fresh aroma at the mill is unbelievable as the oil emerges from the modern processor, which spins the olive paste in a high speed centrifuge, rather than the old method of pressing it. The term “cold pressed” is no longer valid but the olives are still cold processed, using nothing but mechanical means. No additives, just pure fruit juice, and at its best when it’s fresh.
We have a lot of Girl Power here at Eagle Bay Olives. Go us girls! After exhausting days we whip the top off a bottle of the region's wine and ponder the wonder of the olive as we watch the sun set in the West, knowing that we'll be doing it all again tomorrow!