Olive harvest

Raccolta delle olive

The Process of Harvesting Olives for the Production of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

The production of extra virgin olive oil is an art that combines tradition and innovation. Discover how the Oliottaviani oil mill uses traditional and modern methods to create a high quality product, from the olive harvest to the immediate pressing.


Olive Harvesting Techniques

The olive harvest is a crucial phase in the production of extra virgin olive oil. The main collection techniques include:

Manual collection

Manual olive harvesting is a traditional technique that requires the use of simple tools and human labor. This method is still very widespread, especially in small olive groves or in contexts where you want to maintain a more artisanal approach. The main manual harvesting techniques include:

  • Bacchettatura or Bacchiatura: This technique involves the use of sticks to hit the branches of trees, causing the olives to fall onto nets arranged under the foliage of the plants. It is an ancient method, still used for its simplicity and effectiveness.
  • Hand Harvested: The olives are harvested directly from the branches by hand, a method that guarantees maximum care of the fruit but requires a lot of time and manpower. This method is often used for olives intended for the production of high quality oils.

Olive shakers

Olive shakers are machines that use vibration to detach olives from trees. These tools are particularly useful for large olive groves, where manual harvesting would be too burdensome. There are different types of shakers:

  • Manual Shakers: These tools consist of a long stick with a comb at the end, used to shake the branches and make the olives fall. They are ideal for small olive groves and for those who prefer a more traditional approach.
  • Mechanical Shakers: These devices have mechanical arms that wrap around the trunk of the tree and shake it, causing the olives to fall into a container below. The most advanced models are equipped with sensors that detect the ripeness of the olives and automatically adjust the vibration force to avoid damage to the fruit.

Mechanized collection

Mechanized olive harvesting is a technique that uses advanced machinery to optimize the harvesting process. These machines are designed to reduce the time and effort required for harvesting, increasing efficiency and productivity. The main techniques include:

  • Harvesting Machines: These machines are equipped with automated harvesting systems that allow olives to be harvested without the need for a human operator. They are particularly useful in large olive groves where manual harvesting would be impractical.
  • GPS Navigation Systems: Some advanced models of harvesting machines are equipped with GPS navigation systems that map the trees and plan the harvesting route efficiently, reducing harvesting time and optimizing the use of resources.

Optimal period for olive harvesting

The optimal period for harvesting olives depends on various factors, including the variety of olives, climatic conditions and agronomic practices. Each olive variety has specific ripening times that do not always correspond to those of other varieties. For example, early varieties such as Rasara on the Euganean Hills are generally harvested in early October.

Technical maturation and veraison

Olive ripening is a complex process that involves both oiling and the chemical composition of the fruit. The ideal time to harvest is often during technical ripening, when the olives are halfway through the color change, known as superficial veraison. This stage guarantees an optimal balance between organoleptic qualities and oil yield.

Regional Timings

Harvest times also vary based on the latitude of the crops. For example, in the Apulian areas, late varieties such as Coratina and Bosana are harvested until January or even spring. In general, the olive harvest season in Italy runs from mid-September to mid-December.

Impact of Climatic Conditions

Seasonal climate conditions significantly influence the harvest period. Dry summers can delay the ripening of olives, while rainy summers can bring it forward. It is therefore essential to carefully monitor climatic conditions to determine the optimal time for harvesting.

Harvesting Table Olives vs. Oil olives

Table olives and oil olives have different harvesting periods. Table olives are harvested when they have reached maximum size and ripeness, while oil olives are harvested based on the evolution of the quantity and quality of the oil present in the fruit. An early harvest of oil olives produces a bright green oil with herbaceous scents, while a late harvest produces a yellow oil with less intense scents.

Post-Harvest Storage

After harvesting, the olives must be processed quickly to avoid oxidation and mold formation. It is essential to store them in cool, dry places. This step is crucial to maintain the quality of the olives and the oil produced.

Night collection

An innovative practice is night harvesting, as in the case of Moonlight oil, harvested during full moon nights to take advantage of the low temperatures and preserve the organoleptic qualities of the olives. This technique reduces thermal stress on the olives, improving the quality of the oil.


The optimal period for harvesting olives is determined by a combination of factors that include the variety of olives, climatic conditions and agronomic practices. Carefully monitoring these factors and choosing the right time for harvesting is essential to obtaining high-quality oil.

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