Olive Harvesting in Slovenia

11:51:00 PM Unknown 16 Comments

I had intended to get this posted yesterday, but I was called in to substitute at my girl's school and I am not so good at getting everything accomplished when a wrench is thrown into my routine. But, I enjoy being in the school, so when they call I go in. 

So, our tennis trainer, Erik is from Slovenia and one day he offered me some olive oil from his family farm. He then began telling me about the yearly harvest and how the family comes together for a few days of hard work, his grandpa cooks and how much fun they have together. His face really beamed with joy as he recalled the memories.  Over the summer he sent me pictures of the ripening fruit and when I asked him if we could join the family when it came time to harvest the olives he was delighted!

I use olive oil and I love eating olives, but really, I know nothing about how they are grown or harvested.  We've also never done any sort of agri-tourism, so I didn't know how the girls would respond to WORK as a form of vacation, especially since they dread working in the garden at home.
I was pleasantly surprised by my girls who really engaged in the work and who were actually enthusiastic about it.  The process is a simple one (at least with small farms), we used hand held rakes to comb the olives off the tree onto a mesh carpet laid beneath the tree.  The hardest part about the whole thing was NOT stepping on the olives.  Once the tree was de-nuded we gathered the mesh and dumped the olives into a container, then bagged them for transport to the olive press.
Our particular farmer grows about 5 varieties of olive and he mixes them all together to create his own flavor of oil.

By the end of the day we had cleared 30 trees and bagged about 400 kilos of olives which seemed like a lot to me, but in fact, between bugs and weather it was a very bad year for olives and the harvest was impacted by 50%.   At the end of the day the olives were taken directly to the press where the oil would be ready two days later.

Here is our small group of workers. I can honestly say this was one of the funnest things we've done as a family--it was great for all of us to connect with our food in a more intimate way and wow, there is something to be said of a hard days work in the glorious sun shine.

They also grow grapes.
100 year old wine press.
After dinner we took a tour of one of the local olive oil factories.  I was impressed at how quickly the turn around time is. In Spain and Italy olives can sit in the store house for weeks before being pressed, but Slovenian olives are turned around in 24 hours.  That is largely because Slovenia isn't a competitor in the world market of olives and simply doesn't have as many to process.  According to our guide, Slovenian oil is not exported, but wholly used within the country.  
Olive Oil Facts:
1. Cold pressed oil is pressed at 27*c.  Higher heat extracts more oil, but losses aroma, vitamins and quality.
2. The entire olive, pit and all is pressed through a grinder then mulled around until the oil begins to separate from water and solids.
3. Entire process from olive to oil takes only 60 minutes.
The pile below is the waste product from olives.  This can be used in a number of ways--repressed to make lesser quality oil, given to farmers to feed pigs, or use as fertilizer.  At this particular plant, however,  they use it for fuel.  It was impressive to learn how nothing goes to waste in the process of making olive oil.
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  1. Great post... I love olives, they are just yum


  2. Wow! You sure gathered quite a few olives. I have never seen them being picked before. What a lovely post of your day.

  3. I was very interested in reading your post on this olive harvest , and your photos are great. I was in Italy at one time when they were harvesting their olives and thought it was fascinating. Also tried to eat an olive from the tree and the taste was just terrible. Totally surprised me. Interesting post

    1. Thank you, Jeanne! They are terrible tasting, right. My girls were surprised too.

  4. I love learning new stuff (total geek that I am) so that was really interesting - thank you for sharing. x

  5. What a fascinating post! Like you, I didn't know how olives were picked and processed. And like other people commenting, I love learning new things.Thanks for linking to Share the Joy!

  6. We had hoped to be in Greece for olive harvest this month but the fates had different plans for us. Nice to experience it through your blog!

    1. If you have another opportunity, take it--so, so cool.

  7. what a lovely day to spend a day - out in the sun and fresh air with your family doing something productive with a great result at the end! I hope you got to taste some of those olives. Have a lovely weekend, I am joining you over at Communal Global.

  8. Hi Brook! This looks like such an awesome experience. I would love to visit an olive farm. I fell in love with Spanish olives and olive oil when I was there a couple of years ago. I brought back some olive oil. It was so good!
    Thanks for linking up this week, and thanks for adding our badge! #TPThursday

  9. What a fantastic experience! Whilst you were actually picking them, I think we were watching a really boring film about them in Bardolino. I would have much preferred your experience! :)

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