Harvesting Olives In Nea Ionia (Athens, Greece)

In Greece, while many people do not have much of a “yard” at their homes, many have a small garden in front, often with a native tree. The front “yard” here is quite small relative to the sizes of yards back in North America, but our tree of course is an olive. The neighbour on the other hand, has a lemon tree, and right now there is no shortage of fresh lemons being delivered by our very friendly neighbour! It’s really nice to be able to have access to free olives an lemons!

I love olives and olive oil. In my town of Orangeville, there is a shop where you can go and sample different olive oils from around the world, and the differences in taste can be quite astounding. Personally, I like olive oil that has that strong grassy taste with peppery spice on the palate. There are different reasons why one olive oil might taste quite different from another and like wine, can include the terroir in which the olive trees are grown.

Additionally, different stages of ripeness can also have a major effect, with less ripe and early harvested olive oils having the strongest taste. Ripe olives on the other hand, produce more of a sweet tasting oil.

Last Sunday was a fun day here as it was time to “harvest” the olives from the tree in front of the house. These olives will not be pressed into oil however, but will be cured with salt and allowed to ferment for a few weeks before they are edible. Harvesting olives is not the easiest job in the world (although it is easier than the traditional method of harvesting almonds).

Most of them are simply picked by hand where they can be reached – and this year the tree was loaded (ορτωμένος – fortomenos in Greek) with olives! Many of the branches were weighted down and were very easy to reach. Others higher up required a ladder to reach.

When saying the tree was loaded, I’m not kidding. We got about 23kg of olives from the tree (in various stages of ripeness) which is an excellent harvest for a single tree! And with the love of olives here, the family was very happy with the results.

As mentioned, the olives will be cured before they can be eaten as uncured olives taste horrible with an extreme bitterness (olive oil however, comes usually from freshly picked olives which are pressed very soon after they are harvested). I am told that the olives we picked will be ready to eat in a couple of weeks, and I’m looking forward to a big feed of them!

A photo while we were busy showing a sample of the olives that we picked:

olives harvested from tree in front of house at nea ionia, attica, greece

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