It produces a high yield, but requires a lot of attention throughout the year
In one year’s harvest of the previous years, Greece produced 275,000 tonnes of olive oil. The country’s number one producing region is Kalamata.
Greece, with its mediterranean climate, is the perfect home for the olive tree.
The local and regional climatic differences and the soil conditions in Greece have led to ever new olive varieties. This is why there are so many different types of olives in Greece alone.
Worldwide, there are over 60 different olive varieties. Each variety has its own character. The olive varieties in Greece differ not only in size, colour and shape, but also in the composition of their ingredients and therefore in taste.
Kalamata olives are almond-shaped and have a brown, deep purple colour. They have played a role in human nutrition for thousands of years. The olive trees grow in marvellous mediterranean conditions and have much larger leaves than other olive trees in the country and around the world.
The Kalamata olives, known for their shape and intense flavour, are traditionally picked by hand to avoid bruising and damage. After harvesting, they are processed by the workers into either olive oil or table olives.
Anyone who is a guest at Gialova Hills 6 quickly learns how much the Greeks love and respect this ancient fruit and it’s tree.
Harvesting olives is a family affair
Their optimal harvest time is late autumn, October, November, while other varieties are usually harvested earlier, in September, which explains why they are still green. As not all olives ripen at the same time, they can be harvested several times until end of February.
During the harvest, the workers place the nets under the trees to collect all the fruit, while the branches are shaken or the trees are combed with long sticks that resemble a pitchfork.
Hand-picking is hard work that requires the participation of the entire extended family. The work has to be done quickly and efficiently.
Only a few hours pass between the moment the ripe olive falls from the tree and the moment the bright green oil comes out of the press tap.
This is because the olive oil mills also work around the clock during the harvest season. The relationship between the farmer and the owner of the oil mill usually goes back many years. The olive groves and the mills have usually been family-run businesses for many generations.
Kalamata olives in particular also end up as edible fruit on the table
At the time of harvest, the water content of the olives is still low, which affects their firmness and therefore their quality. However, the fresh fruit is not yet edible and is immediately placed in brine.
This process is known as “hardening” and serves to improve the flavour.
There are two different ways to do this.
- The short version is to soak the olives in brine for a week, which increases their sodium content. They are then packed with brine, wine vinegar, lemon slices and olive oil.
- The long version is to make a slit in each fruit and store them in 10% brine until they turn bitter. This process usually takes about three months.
The olive as a health booster
Black olives are considered by doctors and nutritionists to be one of the healthiest foods in the world, as they contain a lot of sodium, are rich in healthy fats and are a natural antioxidant. They are also used in cosmetics.
Kalamata olives contain a range of health-promoting vitamins and minerals and are particularly rich in iron and vitamin A.
They are said to have the following effects:
- Protection of the cardiovascular systemProtect nerve cells from damage
- Reduction of the risk of heart attack
- Reduction of bad LDL cholesterol
- Stimulate the metabolism
- Anti-cancer properties
- Antimicrobial and antiviral effects