How To Know When Olives Are Ready To Pick For Making Olive Oil?

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  • Post category:Harvesting
  • Post last modified:January 13, 2022
best time for picking olives

You probably know that people usually pick olives between early September and late November. However, knowing the exact best time for picking them is essential to get high-quality olive oil. If you’re a small olive grower like me and don’t have too many trees, it’s easy to choose the right time since it won’t be too much work. 

Choosing the right time to pick olives depends on each variety. However, to make high-quality olive oil, you should pick olives when the olive maturity index is anywhere between 2.5 and 4.5. 

It would be a shame to pick olives too soon or too late. You will lose on the olive oil quality, which none of us wants. A friend of mine installs nets under the olive trees and then waits for them to fall. That’s a bad thing because olives will become too ripe for high-quality olive oil. 

No matter where you live, United States, Australia, UK, South America, Spain, Italy, New Zealand, Croatia, Greece, this method works and you’ll be able to determine the best time for olive harvesting.

Instead of counting the olive maturity index, there are also two other extremely easy ways to determine the right time for picking olives, and I’ll show you them below. 

Without furder ado, let’s go. 

Olive Maturity Index – The Best Way

Olive maturity index is the absolute best way to check whether olives are ready to pick, or you should wait for them to ripe even more. 

Related: Olive Maturity Index Explained – Why It’s So Important

The principle of this method is to determine the olive maturity by the color of the fruit. Olive colors usually range from green to dark purple. 

To do this method properly, you should randomly pick 100 olives in total but from different trees. Then, you should sort them into eight categories:

Adeep green color and hard fruit
Byellow to green color, the fruit is a bit softer
Cless than half of the fruit skin is turning purple or black
Dmore than half of the fruit skin is turning purple or black
Ethe whole olive skin is purple or black, but with white or green flesh (cut the olive to check)
Fthe entire olive skin is all purple or black, but with less than half of the olive flesh turning purple
Gthe whole of olive skin is all purple or black, but with more than half of the olive flesh turning purple
Holive skin is entirely purple or black, and the flesh is purple to the pit

When you divide them into all of the above categories, you should count the olives in each category and write the number down. Then, we can check the formula to calculate the olive maturity index. 

Olive Maturity Index Formula:

  • (Ax0 + Bx1 + Cx2 + Dx3 + Ex4 + Fx5 + Gx6 + Hx7) / 100 = OMI

I’ll now show you the practical example, so it’s easier to understand. 

Let’s say we picked 100 olives from different trees and sorted them into the eight categories above. In this example, let’s say this is the case.


Now we should do the math. Let’s use those data in the formula that I showed you above. So, it would be:

  • 2×0 + 11×1 + 20×2 + 31×3 + 26×4 + 6×5 + 2×6 + 2×7 = 304. 
  • Now divide that with 100. So, 304/100 and the results is 3.04 – Olive Maturity Index

And that’s how you count the olive maturity index. 

To make it easier for you, I have made an OLIVE MATURITY INDEX CALCULATOR (check it here). It’s a quick and easy way to get the results without doing math.

What’s Good Olive Maturity Index (OMI)?

A good olive maturity index is anywhere between 2.5 and 4.5. However, the highest quality olive oil is produced when the olive maturity index is between 3.0 and 4.0, depending on the olive variety.  

Personally, I like to pick my olives when the maturity index is around 3.0. I don’t want it to be too low because the fruit won’t give much oil, and it will taste bitter. 

Also, I don’t want the maturity index to be too high because the oil quality will worsen, even though the olives will produce more oil per kg of fruit. 

2 Additional Ways To Check If Olives Are Ready To Pick

Aside from the olive maturity index, there are also two additional and extremely straightforward ways to check if olives are ready to pick so that you can get a high-quality olive oil as a final product. These two ways aren’t as precise as the maturity index, but they’ll also be a good enough sign that your olives are ready to pick.

1st Way – 1/3 Purple and 2/3 Green Olives

This is so far the easiest way to find out if your olives are ready to pick or not. Even though it’s not the best, you can still use it as a pre-test before doing an olive maturity test. Even if you completely lean on this method, you can easily choose the right time to pick your olives.

For this method, you should check the fruits on olive trees. They should be:

  • 1/3 of olives should be purple or dark
  • 2/3 of olives should be green or colorful (green-yelow-purple)

Disadvantages of this method:

  • It’s hard to determine the quantity of green, purple, and colorful olives
  • Not as precise as maturity index

2nd Way – Flesh Separates From Pit

The second effortless way to check if olives are ready to pick is by checking how easy the flesh separates from the pit. You should randomly pick 20-30 olives from different trees in order to get the best possible result.

For this method, pick 20-30 olives from different trees, and cut them in half with a razer or any knife:

  • If you can easily separate the olive flesh from the pit in most olives, olives are ready to pick.
  • If the flesh isn’t separating easily on most olives you picked, you should let them ripe more.

Disadvantages of this method:

  • If you choose the “wrong” olives (samples), you can easily be misled that olives are ripe, even though they are not.

Final Words

I hope that now you when olives are ready to pick for high-quality olive oil. In the end, it all depends on what you want. If you wish to produce high-quality olive oil, you will pick olives that aren’t fully ripe. On the other hand, if you want more olive oil, you’ll pick them when they’re riper.

My advice for you is to combine all three methods I’ve shown you below, with the olive maturity index to be the last one to confirm the 2nd and 3rd methods. I always combine more methods to get the best possible result. That way I’m 100% sure that I’ll always get the best extra virgin oil for me and for my family.

It may take some of your precious time, but it’s totally worth it. When you properly count the maturity index and choose the best possible time to pick olives, the oil you’ll get from those olives will be fantastic.