24 Dec Olive picking holidays in Greece
November time marks the onset of winter in Greece and it is filled with childhood memories around the olive harvest. I’ve always welcomed the days where winter makes its first appearance. It’s a nice change from the never-ending heated-up Greek summers. The sun is still shinning more often than not and the odd rain showers turn the ground alive with wild herbs and edible greens.
Back in the 80’s my family owned a bit of land in Northern Peloponnese, a little paradise with orchards of fruit trees, a vegetable garden and about fifty olive trees, older than most of us. So come the weekend, the whole family would depart the flat in Athens and spend time at the farm.
We were not the only ones out in the fields. Everybody is out at this time of the year, and the more land you own the longer the part of the winter you will end up spending out in the fields olive picking or pruning the trees afterwards. Families with a long olive oil tradition and acres of land will of course have many workers helping them out, but you will never meet a family that has not done part of the job themselves.
Olive picking is not easy! Of course there are mechanical ways to complete it using large collection machines but this requires a flat terrain and easily accessible olive groves. In contrast, most of Greece is mountainous and the terrain is in most cases rough. Besides, the best quality olive oil requires that the olives have suffered minimal damage. In effect, we are left with manual hand picking of the fruit, and careful storage for as little time as possible. Its always good to have an olive press/mill operating nearby.
Large collection sheets are spread on the ground underneath the trees and each and everyone of us is either up in ladders or has climbed the trees themselves, lightly beating and combing the tree branches so that the fruit will end up on the ground. We use large rake-like gadgets to comb the leafy parts of the tree and remove the fruit. These are thick and made of plastic so that the fruit will remain intact with no scratches and wounds! Kids usually collect the olives one by one from already pruned branches. There is a job for everyone during the harvest. My grandmother used to always be busy in the kitchen at that time of the year. She would prepare pies everyday which we would take with us in the fields to serve as a quick lunch. Usually each day would end up with a massive dinner, or a bbq, often right there on the spot.
These memories are always filled with smells and flavors of freshly baked sourdough bread, cheese and spinach pies, BBQ meat in a wood fire, baked potatoes and freshly cut salads.
When you know you will end up with a meal like that you don’t mind the work. You do it happily …besides hunger and hard work make a well-cooked meal taste even better!
It’s largely these memories that have inspired us to offer olive picking holidays in Greece. You get to take part in an age-old tradition that is right at the heart of the culture here, alongside the local community.
These days, our base is The Olive Farm at Litsarda in Crete. You can join us for a Gastronomy Holiday in Crete during the olive picking season, from the end of November till February! Make you own olive oil, cook traditional recipes with our inspiring chef and immerse yourself in the local gastronomy!
Join us for olive picking holidays in Greece.