Lipstick for goats

Lipstick for goats

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, off to olive picking I go!

I think I sort of invited myself to help with the olive harvest at Narranghi Olive Grove situated just outside of Braidwood.  I met Kerry and Paul, half owners of the grove with Kerry's sister Di and her husband, through a friend who had talked about the fun she has every year helping out at the harvest. The harvest sounded like a great social event, I figure if someone willingly goes back year after year to help friends out for gratis, simply for the joy of being there and the good company, it’s something I would also like to experience and I’m always up for learning something different. And learn about olives I did, as well as being so well fed over the weekend I thought I would go home and have a food baby! 

Kerry is such an organised woman with her well planned map of the grove with every tree numbered, row by row. I am sure she knows each individual tree and whether it is a dud or a darling. 

Anyone who wants to cultivate olives must have a patient personality, that counts me out! A tree takes over seven years to show its first fruiting and then it won’t be until it is 15 to 20 years old before bearing at its best. 

The olive trees require a lot of work, they must be properly pruned to insure the fullest possible exposure to the sun’s rays. 

Pruning aficionado Paul.

Once one job is finished a new job on the trees demands attention, whether it be spraying for lace bugs or sooty mould, or constantly checking the irrigation lines haven't been pulled out by the pesky rabbits.

Picking begins after the olives have been nipped by the first cold of winter, the fruit can be harvested when it is green and unripe, fully ripened to black or any stage in between but no matter at what stage of ripeness all olives need to be processed before they can be eaten, I believe they taste dreadful 'raw'. I wasn't falling for Paul's cheeky joke to a rookie picker that I could eat as many olives as I wanted while picking. 

There are no mechanical harvesters at Narranghi Olive Grove, it is all done lovingly by hand and lots of loving hands are needed when a grove consists of 700 trees!  I am told the mechanical harvesters used by some large commercial growers, grasp the tree by the trunk then shake the bejings out of it to drop the olives, however, the trees are sensitive to being so assaulted,  therefore many boutique growers prefer to hand harvest.

When olives are harvested by hand, sheets of netting are placed on the ground under the trees to catch the fruit.

A sort of milking motion is employed to strip the fruit from the trees. When we weren't talking and laughing I found the hand picking puts one into a meditative, calming zone. The hardest thing about picking is to be aware of where your feet are so you are not prematurely squishing the olives on the net. 

For those higher branches a long handled plastic rake is used to comb the fruit out. Wendy was determined to get to those olives at the top of the tree.

After harvesting of a tree's crop is completed, the nets filled with olives are emptied into crates, which are then taken to be processed.

They are highly perishable commodities, souring easily, so that they must be pressed as soon after picking as possible. Narranghi Grove have their own processing plant.  

End of the picking day as the sun sets over Narranghi Olive Grove, an amazingly beautiful setting. 

What a great weekend I had, with a humourous, congenial bunch of people who made me feel very welcome. I might just invite myself again next year!