It can take several years for an olive tree to bear fruit for the first time. The time window for the harvest varies depending on the location and the temperature and light conditions. In local regions, the best time for harvest is between April and June, although the exact time can be determined by the hobby gardener himself. Depending on the harvest time, the taste as well as the consistency and color of the fruit are different. This makes it possible to harvest green and fruity-tart as well as black and mild olives from a single olive tree.

Early Harvest – “Early harvest”

Green, unripe olives are preferably harvested for the production of olive oil. This is because the polyphenol content is particularly high at this stage. This is a secondary plant compound that has a bioactive effect and is extremely healthy for humans. A good olive oil has at least a polyphenol content of 250 milligrams per kilogram, whereas high-quality premium oils even reach values ​​of 500 milligrams per kilogram and more.

  • Harvest time: while the fruits are green
  • Fruit colour: green, does not change color even after harvesting
  • Taste: fruity-tart, bitter and intense
  • Flesh: relatively firm

progressive maturity

If the olives are not harvested when they are green, they will gradually take on a reddish-purple hue. But the fruits do not only change visually, their taste and consistency also change. On the one hand, the pulp becomes softer and the polyphenol content slowly decreases. Although this is still relatively high, it is still significantly lower than with unripe, green fruits.

  • Harvest time: 2-3 months later
  • Fruit color: reddish purple
  • Flavor: pungent aroma develops
  • Flesh: slightly softer

final stage

The longer olives stay on the tree , the longer they can ripen. Ripe fruits can be recognized by their particularly dark colour, which can range from reddish-black to deep black. Ripe olives are also dark on the inside, because the flesh and the stone are also dark black. The polyphenol content is at its lowest at this point, which is why the fruit no longer tastes as bitter and pungent. However, they contain significantly more saturated fatty acids and contain significantly more calories than unripe specimens.

  • Harvest Time: Fruits are no longer green
  • Fruit color: reddish black to deep black
  • Taste: mildly spicy, slightly sweet note
  • Flesh: soft
Note: Black olives from the trade do not necessarily have to be fully ripe, as they are often harvested when green and then dyed black. This process also extends their shelf life and changes their taste.

harvesting methods

There are different harvesting methods for olives, all of which have their advantages and disadvantages. The easiest way seems to be to wait for the ripe fruit to fall to the ground and then pick it up. However, it should be noted that these olives have usually exceeded the optimum degree of ripeness and that a loss in quality must be expected accordingly. However, the following methods are more suitable:

Harvesting by hand
To this day, many traditional farmers still choose to harvest by hand. The olives are simply picked from the tree as soon as they have reached the desired degree of ripeness.

  • Advantage: no damage to the olives
  • Disadvantage: time and labor intensive

Harvesting with a net
Harvesting the olives with the help of a net is also common in traditional cultivation. A densely meshed net is set up under the tree in which falling fruit can collect. To speed up the harvesting process, many farmers use a rake or stick. They hit the branches and twigs of the tree with it, causing the fruit to fall.

  • Advantage: faster and easier
  • Disadvantage: possible damage to fruits and branches

Vibrating machines
Instead of rakes or sticks, modern cultivation often uses vibrating machines to shake the trees. For this harvesting method, too, a net is stretched under the tree, in which the falling fruit can land safely.

  • Advantage: fast and time-efficient
  • Disadvantage: possible damage to the fruit

The quickest of the most common harvesting methods is also the most brutal: the fruit-bearing branches are sawed off with a saw and the olives are then loosened. This variant is certainly very time-saving, but at the expense of the tree. Because sawing off the branches causes injuries to the tree, from which it first has to recover. It should also not be forgotten that the olive tree now has to form new branch tips.

  • Advantage: fastest
  • Disadvantage: brutal, tree has to recover

It is possible to harvest both green and black olives from an olive tree. Because the color of the fruit does not depend on the variety, but on the harvest time. Although green fruits are unripe and taste bitter, they are the ideal basis for olive oils. If you wait a little longer to harvest and let the fruits ripen, you can enjoy the deep black, mild fruits.

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