I wouldn’t say that the initial excitement of our farm purchase has worn off, but the realisation that our harvest time is approaching is starting to hit us with some force. Many groves on mainland Australia are harvesting already, but the cooler climate in Tasmania means harvest starts later so the olives have longer to ripen. Friends and family are asking what our plans are, and explaining what we’ll be doing makes it all seem rather real! We’ve had to decide in advance when we’ll go. Ideally, we’d be on site, monitoring the fruit and weather on a daily basis to decide the best time to start picking. In reality we need to arrange time off from our “proper” jobs, and make travel arrangements for us and the dogs. Who will obviously be excellent help. We thought we could rig up a little trailer for them to tow the olives to the pressing room. Only joking. I don’t think they’d get there very quickly. If at all.
So we’ve decided on June. Picking early can mean higher quality (lower acidity), but lower yield due to lower oil content of the relatively unripe fruit. The ripeness is difficult to predict as weather conditions in this final few weeks can make a big difference. And we don’t want to have any frost damage, which might damage the fruit and really reduce the quality of the oil. We’ll send a fruit sample away for testing before we start picking to get a measurement of the oil content, but by then it will be too late to change our plans, so it’s really more for a baseline reference.
Oil yields are quoted between 4 – 25%, but 13 – 15% is most common. What this means is that assuming a 15% oil content, for every kilogram of olives pressed, you’d theoretically get 150 grams of olive oil. It’s obviously not quite so straightforward; the relationship between weight of fruit and volume of oil is affected by numerous factors. And I’m sure we’ll be learning lots about them as we progress! But my favourite fact of the week is that a Picual olive weighs 2-4 grams. How tiny does that sound?! Some varieties have fruit weighing up to a massive 8 grams. FFx