The traditional process of picking olives burns a huge amount of calories. This is a great form of exercise compared to the current methods of harvesting.
The traditional method of picking olives from the trees is by using a stick to beat the branches. The olives are still harvested this way at Laharum Grove from early June to mid July. Unlike the neighbors of this Victorian Olive Grove at the foothills of the Grampians, they still use traditional methods of harvesting.
As the trees are very established it’s difficult to get a shaker machine around the trunk and this can damage the trees. The traditional method is harder work but just as effective according to the owner Dierdre Baum.
These trees form part of the original grove planted in 1943 by Jacob Friedman. They were part of an investment project which unfortunately left many investors high and dry. The demand didn’t align with the sales projections. Other stories speak of an Italian immigrant who hand planted the grove with the help of ex POW’s and convicts.
This is very physical work with a olive picker filling 2 x 500kg bins per day. The process begins with covering the ground with a meshed sheet that collects all the fallen olives.
Great care is taken not to accidentally step on the olives and crush them as they are then worthless for oil extraction.
Next comes the fun part, by using a stick that may be made from bamboo, the picker faces the branch with the fruit side on. They then use a follow through action to skim the edge of the branches to ensure maximum extraction.
Different sized sticks can be used to either reach the higher fruit or the branches drooping close to the ground.
It’s a good idea to ensure that you give your arms an even workout and change sides regularly unless you want to have a dominant arm.
The next stage is to collect the fallen olives and deposit them into the smaller baskets that hold up to 25-30kgs. These are carried over to the larger bins.
The smaller branches amongst the olives need to be sifted prior to being deposited into the larger bins.
Well we managed to fill 2 bins in 2.5 hours, the first bin at 625kg and the second at 645kg, not a bad effort considering that this takes a whole day for a single picker.
This process is extremely efficient as the fruit is stripped bare from the tree.
Now the best part, enjoying some el fresco dining with olive oil and bread, olive oil paste and olives.
For those looking to experience the pick and press themselves, Fitstyler will be running our own event with competitions to add some more excitement. You can also contact Laharum Grove.
The last part of the process is getting the olives pressed within 12 hours, preferable 6 hours to stop deterioration and the fermentation process commencing. This is just one of the 9 prerequisites for the oil to be qualified as extra virgin olive oil.
So with a yield of 10%, that’s a lot of olive oil to be processed.
Fortunately for us, Lanarum Grove has access to the pressing facility at Toscana Olives which forms part of the original plantation dating back to the 1940′s.
If you’re looking for a challenge, then try and beat the record set last week when one of the older pickers from Toscana picked 1400kgs in a day, pretty amazing when 25 of us picked 1300kgs.
Now that’s some exercise, starting at 8.30-9.00am and finishing by 5pm as the olives must be at the press to process. Even more impressive is Diedre’s mum and dad who will pick a ton a day.