Last Saturday I had a day out in the country, certainly a change from the corporate office world I´m used to.
I went to pick olives in the Lecrin Valley. Now if you are Spanish or know anything about Olives by now you´ll be saying to yourself Olive collection in April! Impossible!
Usually the Olive harvest is done from Mid November until the end of February. In places where the production is large scale such as Jaén, Granada and other areas of Andalucia and Spain. However in the enchanting Lecrin Valley the trees are extremely tall and many are hundreds of years old. The collection is done in a completely different way. It´s more artisan and natural.
The olives have to fall to the ground, as the treesare too high to climb, to high to reach to beable to shake them with a machine or even hit the branches. (varear) So when the olives are black and ripe they fall to the ground and cover the floor or bancales. Once there are enough to warrant a collection (usually every 2 or 3 weeks) they are picked up off the ground.
There are different systems depending on the stability of the ground, and the amount of olives to collect. It can be done with a blower machine (think Black and Decker leaf blower) that rounds the olives up into wide lines. A wooden yard brush and the olives are swept into piles, or by a rolling machine with spikes that sticks into the olives and flicks them into a metal tray as you walk along the path.
The day I went to work in the valley I was using the brush. Sweeping the ground as it was firm and sturdy due to lack of rain. The olives were already grouped into long lines and my job was to make round piles of olives by sweeping them together either side. This seems all well and good. Each pile has kilograms and kilograms of olives, they are heavy!
So I am on my own doing the sweeping and two people are behind me picking up the piles of olives as I go along the land. They pick them up by scooping them into a round basket called Espuerta. Once the basket is full, they transfer the olives into a large sack and keep going until the whole pile has been scooped up.
The work is quite hard as you need to be constantly bending down, lifting heavy sacks or sweeping hard. The positive side is when you want a break you can step away and find a juicy ripe orange on a nearby tree and have a break.
Taking in the sounds of the countryside, listening to the birds, noticing the plants in flower and breathing in the clean air. One of the highlights was seeing the Peach trees that were in flower with bright pink blooms covering the tree knowing that in Summer all those flowers will turn into lovely ripe peaches.
Anyway still loads to do, had to stop daydreaming about the Summer and get back to the sweeping. The piles of sacks full of black Lechin de Granada olives were now piling up at the end of the rows. We had to hurry as we had to get back to the village to hand over the days pickings to the Olive Oil factory. They got busy and large queues form as the day draws to an end.
To get things ready for transporting we had to empty the large white sacks in the trailer, this way more olives fit in, when they are loose. And then on the top tie on as many sacks as we could fit on securely. The country roads are dirt tracks and are quite bumpy, don´t want to loose any along the way!
So at the end of the day it turned out that we managed to collect 1200 kgs, for three of us it wasn´t bad. We couldn´t have collected any more as the trailer would only allow for that amount. We´d have to go back to finish up another day.
It certainly was hard work. I´ll think about olive oil in a completely different way from now on all that work in each drop. I asked about how much oil all those olives would produce, it turns out that only about 30% of it becomes oil. At the end of the day my waist and my arms were beginning to ache. Sunday was definitely going to be a day on the sofa relaxing!