Olive harvest time is hard to miss in Cyprus, there’s a busy bustle around the fields, accompanied by rustling noises coming from the trees’ branches. So how are olives harvested, and what is the process that’s involved in making the lovely local olive oil?
First and foremost the olives need picking. Olive picking season in Cyprus starts from around August time and continues into the New Year. The first olives picked are the small green ones that are served in nearly all Cypriot tavernas. If they are left on the trees longer, they turn black and are then used for making olive oil.
Picking olives is typically done by laying sheets or ground sheets around the base of thetree and then they are plucked onto the ground by hand, or using an olive hand rake to rustle them off the branches. Farmers with lots of trees tend to use mechanical rakes. If the olives are being picked for curing/marinating then it’s best to hand pick them so that the best, un-blemished ones are selected. The olives are then crated and taken to the factory to be turned into olive oil. The factories charge by kg so it’s important for pickers to make sure that any leaves and branches are taken out of the crates.
The basic process of obtaining olive oil involves cleaning the olives (removing leaves etc), crushing them, adding water, pressing the paste to obtain the olive oil (together with the added water), filtering the liquid to remove substances and finally separating the olive oil from water (olive doesn’t mix with water, it is lighter and floats). Initially, stone mortars and basins were used for crushing, whereas separation was done by collecting olive oil (even by hand). Later inventions included the round crushing basin, which enabled the use of animals in the crushing process, the use of the lever press, and separation vessels. The process changed significantly in the nineteenth century with the use of electricity and centrifuges.
Read an in-depth article on olive oil production on Cyprusfoodndrinks.com.
Oleastro in Anogyra Village (around a 30 minute drive from Aphrodite Hills) have a fantastic museum and park dedicated to educating the public about olives, as well as an ecological mill (the only organic olive oil producers in Cyprus) for the production of olive oil. It’s well worth a visit if you are interested in the subject, visit their website for full details.
Key to olive production:
- Skilful pruning: comes the saying “The olive tree needs a crazy pruner and a sensible picker.”
- Air and light: comes the saying “The olive tree heard the builder’s trowel and burst into tears.”
- Ploughing and hoeing: comes the saying “Give me at the root and I’ll give you on the branch.”
- Thorough watering: comes the saying “The olive tree heard the plough and thought it was the irrigation ditch.”
Some local uses for olive oils:
- A piece of cotton soaked in warm olive oil is used to soften earache
- Pregnant women would rub their bellies with olive oil to avoid stretch marks
- Rubbing olive oil on parts of the body aching would relief from pain
- Production of soaps and other natural beauty products for the skin and hair
- lighting ‘candilia’, small hanging oil lamps, in the Christian Orthodox church
- It is also believed that olive oil is an aphrodisiac
Health benefits of olive oil: The unsaturated greasy acids within olive oil help reduce “bad” cholesterol in the blood, assist the good operation of intestine during the digestion, protect against the oxidation and also play a major role regarding the prevention of hard, degenerative and other diseases. Also they revive the skin due to their high content in vitamin E.
Have you got an olive tree? Read on cyprusgardener.co.uk to find out how to preserve your olives, Cypriot-style.
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