If one considers the chain of events throughout the year on an olive grove estate, the pruning and mulching of the trees in the spring, the regular mowing of the grass and the annual fight against the olive fly during the Summer months, the most critically busy time of year has got to be harvest in the Autumn.
As soon as the olives begin to turn from bright green to a plum – bluish colour, and assuming that the olive-mills have opened up for business from their dormant season, a frenetic activity sparks off throughout Italy. Every able-bodied man, woman, and child, migrates out into the olive groves for the harvest.
The outdated harvesting techniques of our forebears have long since fallen into disuse. They consisted of laying out nets under the trees and waiting until the ripe, and sometimes overly ripe olives fell to the ground. This then invariably produced a rough quality cooking oil, because the riper the olive the higher the acidic level, and the longer olives are left on the ground, the more decomposition sets in.
Healthy, fresh olives should be harvested off the trees, and processed in a suitably clean olive-mill.
Consequently: One should only harvest where the trees have not been infected by the olive-fly. Where this is the case, the olives will decompose whilst on the tree and fall to the ground. When olives are found laying on the ground, these should never be collected. Olives should be plucked in such a way that they do not get bruised. They are then gathered into aerated plastic crates, which are filled half way. The crates are collected, and dispatched to the mill. Make sure that this process or any delay may never take longer than 48 hours.
Ideally, there should be a sufficient quantity of picked olives by the end of each day, to warrant a daily trip to the mill.