It’s been many centuries since Virgil penned this line, and yet, olive’s legacy as a source of good health continues unabated. In fact, today, extra virgin olive oil has grabbed the attention of health enthusiasts worldwide, and for all the right reasons.
This nutritious liquid fat packs in a powerful punch of antioxidants, vitamins, and anti-inflammatory properties, which extend a bevy of benefits for your brain, heart, joints, and more.
No wonder, farmers have been taking a keen interest in growing olives and harvesting them for olive oil in recent years.
If you, too, are interested in producing your own variety of olive oil, then you need to keep in mind a few pointers to be successful in your venture. Let’s take a look at what it takes to become an olive oil farmer.
Know To Prune For A Good Produce
Pruning can make a significant difference to your olive production. This single farming activity serves the dual purpose of increasing your olive production and shaping the trees for easier harvest.
If you skip this step, your trees may not remain healthy and bear fruit to their maximum potential.
Also, since olives happen to be alternate bearing trees, the harvest can be plentiful in one year and too little the next. Pruning helps to even out the crop load. It can also help you to extend the productivity of your trees.
So, as an olive oil farmer, you will have to include pruning in your farming schedule every year.
Keep Pests At Bay
Keeping your olive trees free of pests is another essential task that you will have to accomplish as an olive oil farmer.
Several kinds of pests threaten the cultivation and growth of your olive trees. These include the woolly aphids, oleander scales, gray olive scales, root weevils, and several others.
One of the most formidable pests is the olive fruit fly. It can cause much damage to your olive cultivation. Since the fly lays the eggs on the olives, the larvae dig tunnels and devour off the olives from inside.
To prevent this, you need to follow good sanitation practices and check any kind of infestation regularly.
Time The Harvest Wisely
The timing of your harvest can make or break your efforts to produce high-quality olive oil. After all, the taste of your olive oil depends on how ripe your olives are at the time of harvesting.
As such, you must know the perfect moment for harvesting your crop load.
Usually, olives that are of a greener tinge have a strong grassy flavor and do not produce much oil. Compared to them, purple olives are a matured lot that has a mild buttery flavor and yield more oil.
Once your olives reach the ripeness you desire, you need to harvest them at the earliest. If you aim to produce extra virgin olive oil, you need a harvest of well-grown fine quality olives.
But make sure that the olives do not over-ripen and end up becoming too mature. Else, your olive oil may not have a distinct flavor that makes this variety such a rage among consumers across the world.
Select The Harvesting Technique
You can harvest olives by one of the two main harvesting techniques: hand harvest and machine harvest. While hand harvesting is the traditional technique, the machine harvest is the mechanical way of doing the job.
In both cases, the aim is to collect the olives without causing any damage to them.
If you go with the popular method of hand harvesting, you can break the olives by using your hands, with hand rakes, or using vibrating rakes. This technique of harvesting is more common among small farms and individual farmers.
In the machine harvesting technique, over-the-top harvesters are used to collect the olives when they are just perfectly ripe. This is the technique preferred by several large olive oil producing companies.
Since each of these methods can be effective for producing high-quality olive oil, you can follow any of them. But remember that harvesting olives can be a time-consuming affair, regardless of the technique you follow.
Also, take care to ensure that the olives aren’t damaged, else fermentation can set in and impact the quality of the oil produced.
Get On With The Extraction Part
It is very important to start the process of olive oil production within a few hours of harvesting.
The more you delay the process, the greater is the risk of spontaneous fermentation setting in. Once fermentation begins, the quality of your olive oil will be compromised.
So, to keep intact the health benefits of olive oil, most cultivators begin pressing or crushing the olives almost immediately after harvesting. The main methods of extraction include traditional and continuous methods.
In the traditional method, large millstones are used for crushing the olive pulp and stones. This helps release the oil from the microcells of the pulp.
Since it is a tedious and time-consuming process, it is not in much use these days.
The continuous or modern method facilitates the crushing of olives using fully or partially automated metal crushers.
The crusher rotates at high speed and extracts oil at a controlled temperature of 27 degrees or less. This process helps to preserve the natural flavor and aroma of the olives.
The extracted oil is stored in a container, and any extra sediment is allowed to settle at the bottom. The last step of the process is the bottling up of the oil and getting it ready to be sold off.
Make The Extra Effort For The Extra Virgin Oil
Growing olives and producing olive oil does take some effort and time. But it is certainly a very rewarding process, especially when you get to produce your own extra virgin olive oil.
Now that you know all about cultivating olives and becoming an olive oil farmer, what are you waiting for? Just take the plunge and get ready to produce the finest quality of olive oil.
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