How To Pick Olives By Hand Without Any Tools

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ladies picking olives by hand

Picking olives by hand is still prevalent in some areas, especially the ones with ancient olive trees that require a meticulous harvest. Today, I’ll show you how to pick olives by hand correctly, what equipment you’ll need, and other exciting details.

Steps To Pick Olives By Hand:

  • Place the harvesting net under the tree.
  • Tie an apron around your waist.
  • Start picking olives reachable from the ground.
  • Climb on ladders to pick olives from heights.
  • Collect all the olives from the net.

1. Start By Placing a Harvesting Net Under The Tree

I always suggest installing a harvesting net under the tree before picking olives. The olive harvesting net will collect all the olives that fall from the tree or out of your hands.

Without harvesting net catchers, all the olives will fall to the ground, which is full of dirt, mud, poops, and much more. Also, it’s a tough job to collect olives from the ground because you either need to be bent or on your knees.

Related: Best Harvesting Nets For Olives

2. Tie an Apron Around Yourself

collecting olives into apron

After placing a net, it’s time to tie an apron around yourself. Make sure that the apron has a larger pocket. All the olives you pick by your hand, you should put inside that apron. Some people use buckets, but it’s hard to carry a bucket all the time. In my opinion, having an apron tied around you is a much better and easier way.

Whenever the apron gets full of olives, unload it into a plastic container, a bag, or a bucket in which you’ll carry the olives from the farm.

While you’re on the ground, you can even store olives directly in the containers, but once you climb the tree, it’ll be hard if you don’t use an apron.

3. Start Picking Olives That You Can Reach From The Ground

To make this method as quick as possible, you should first pick olives from the branches that you can access from the ground (without using ladders). Go around the tree and pick as many olives as you can.

I do it like this:

  • I keep a branch in one hand.
  • With my other hand, I strip olives and store them inside the apron.

Sometimes you’ll have to pull some branches with your other hand in order to make them closer to you, and it’s totally fine. Just be careful not to break the branch and damage the tree.

4. Climb on Ladders To Reach The Top Of The Tree

When you harvest everything accessible from the ground, you should then take ladders and climb on them to reach all the olives on higher branches. Start at one side and gradually move around the tree to pick everything.

Make sure not to skip any areas, you have to be thorough, no olives should be left hanging on the tree. It would be a shame.

5. Collect All The Olives From The Net

collecting olives from the net

When you successfully collect all the olives from the tree, you should then slowly roll up the net to one side so all the olives from the net end up there. Then, you can pick those olives, preferably directly into the plastic containers where the olives will be stored until the processing part.

Now, just do all these steps on other olive trees you want to harvest too. And that’s it.


Even though I don’t personally see a reason why one would choose to pick olives by hand when there are so many cheap tools, such as harvesting rakes, that can help you pick olives quicker and more thoroughly. The only reason is if you have some ancient olive trees that require you to be careful – hand-picking olives is the least invasive method.

Check the video below and see how they pick olives from a 1600-year-old olive tree.

Also, if you have only one or two olive trees, picking them by hand can even be funny and interesting. It could be like a picnic for your family since there’s no need to rush or anything similar.

If you want to know the quickest way of picking olives, check my article How To Pick Olives Fast, where I explain everything in 4 easy steps.