When the olives are finally ready to pick, it’s time to harvest them. Picking olives requires some time, especially if you’re harvesting them using old methods (by hand, by using handheld plastic combs, etc.). As always, there’s a way to pick olives quicker, which I’m going to show you today.
To pick olives fast, you should combine shaker machines and hand tools. First, you should use an olive shaker machine to pick most fruits and then use hand tools such as combs to harvest the rest.
Of course, there are costly machines such as professional tree shakers, but I’m not going to talk about that. They’re only suitable for large companies with thousands of olive trees, and it’s just not profitable for 99% of us.
I’ll show you tools and tips that don’t cost a fortune so that you can invest in them and start picking olives faster. These investments will return extremely quickly since you’ll be faster at picking olives.
Also, if you don’t have a large team for harvesting olives, you should pick olives from one tree at a time. On the other hand, if you hand a larger group, you can harvest more olives at once.
1. Place Harvesting Net Under The Tree
The most important thing for picking olives fast is preparing the area around the tree. Harvesting nets are used to collect all the olives that fall from the tree. That way, you won’t have to pick olives by hand since the net will keep them all.
Placing harvesting net under the olive tree takes some time, but in the end, it speeds olive harvesting job a lot.
Harvesting nets aren’t expensive, and you should always use them when harvesting olives, whether it’s for making olive oil or making some other olive products.
Follow these tips to install a harvesting net under the tree properly:
- Expand the net completely
- Place it under the tree
- Cover all the areas, especially around the tree trunk
- If needed, you can even use some rope to tie the net to the tree
As you can see, it’s a straightforward task. The most important thing here is to make sure that all the areas under the tree are covered, so no olives fall to the ground. All the olives from the tree should end up in the net.
2. Use Handheld Electric Olive Harvester
When the net is installed under the tree, you should then start picking olives. The quickest way to do that is by using electric olive harvesting machines. There are also gas-powered harvesting machines, but they’re not as ecological as electric ones. So, my advice is always to use battery-powered shakers.
These machines are made to safely shake the olive branches so that the olive fruits fall down undamaged.
Also, make sure to use shaker machines with a longer or expandable wand so that you can reach the top of the tree easily. Using ladders takes time and will slow you down.
Tips for adequately using olive shaker machines:
- Work in smaller areas, maybe one meter wide
- Start from the top of the tree
- Harvest olives from the top of the branches first, then go deeper
- When you finish that side, go around the tree and repeat all the steps
When working with an electric olive harvester, make sure to be as thorough as possible. That way, you’ll have fewer olives to pick by using harvesting combs later.
Furthermore, you can adjust shaking/rotation speed on most harvester machines. Make sure to start with lower settings. That way, there are fewer chances of breaking branches and causing damage to the tree. If the lower speed settings don’t work, increase the speed.
3. Use Harvesting Rakes For The Rest
When you finish harvesting olives with the machine, more than 98% of olive fruits should be harvested already. However, you should inspect the olive tree and check if any olives are still on the tree. It’s impossible to pick all of them with electric harvesters, and that’s why you should always check the tree.
Use handheld harvesting combs and pick the rest of the olives. Also, to reach the top of the tree, you can use ladders or expandable wands for the combs.
Picking olives by using combs may take some time, but that way, you’ll make sure that all the olives are harvested and ready to collect from the net.
Large companies often leave plenty of fruit on the tree, but it’s leaving money on the table for us small olive growers. That’s why I always take extra time to properly inspect the olive tree and pick all the left olives.
4. Collect Olives From The Net
When you finish picking olives completely, it’s time to collect them from the net. All the olives will be inside the net if you correctly installed it. It’s an extremely quick and easy task, but you can’t do it alone. In my opinion, at least three people should do this together.
Start by lifting the harvesting net from the corners, so no olives end up outside the net. When shrinking the net, make sure that all the olives end up in one spot near the edge.
When the olives are near the edge, it’s easy to transfer them to baskets, containers, or bags.
Now, two people should hold the net, while the third should place the container under it. Then, lift the net, so the olives roll into the container. Make sure not to rush. You should avoid damaging any fruits.
As you’re transferring olives from the net to the containers, make sure to separate leaves and branches from the fruits. They can impair the quality of olive oil.
Of course, it’s impossible to separate all of them, but try to be as thorough as possible. Few leaves won’t do anything terrible, but if there are too many of them, the oil won’t be as quality as it should be.
Picking olives from the trees isn’t an extremely hard job, but it takes time and should be done without rushing. In the past, people would pick olives in aprons by using their hands or some plastic combs, which took a lot of time.
Luckily, with the advancement of technology, we have the chance to do it quicker and even safer than before. It would be a shame not to use all the fantastic tools, especially when they’re not very expensive.
To make it clear, if you have only a few olive trees, there’s no need to buy some expensive equipment. My friend has only five trees in his garden, and he always picks olives in the good old way. But if you have more than 10-15 trees, you should consider investing some money in the equipment to make the harvesting process quicker.