Should You Remove Twigs and Leaves Before Making Olive Oil? (And Other Debris)

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To make high-quality olive oil, you should have perfectly ripe olives. But when you harvest olives, it’s normal for some twigs and leaves to fall in the net as well. If you’re wondering if removing twigs and leaves is crucial, I’ll explain everything in this post.

Key Takeaways:

  • I recommend that you always remove twigs and leaves from olives prior to making olive oil.
  • It’s impossible to remove all of them, but try to be thorough.
  • Oil mill facilities also have machines that separate them, so you don’t have to worry about every single leaf or twig.
  • Removing twigs and leaves ensures that you get a higher-quality olive oil.

Remove Twigs and Leaves While You Harvest Olives

removing leaves from olives

The best way, and actually the only correct way, is to remove twigs, leaves, stems, and other debris while you’re harvesting olives.

The most efficient way is to do that as you transfer the olives from net catchers to the baskets. I tried to do it in several other ways, but they weren’t efficient at all.

Make sure to also pay attention to some rocks, wrecked glass, bracelets, metals, etc. Anything that’s really stiff can be extremely dangerous in mill facilities.

You should remove as many twigs and leaves (and other debris) as possible while harvesting, so there’s less chance of that dirt going through the oil press and ending up in oil content.

If you’ll make olive oil by yourself, then it’s even more important, since you probably won’t have any other tools to re-check olives for debris.

Machinery In Oil Mill Facilities Will Remove Leftovers

As you probably know, machinery in oil mill facilities will also remove leaves, twigs, and other debris before the olive extraction process starts.

Since they mostly use some kind of air blower, they won’t be able to remove 100% of leaves, twigs, and other debris. That’s why it’s important that you remove as many of them as possible.

In my opinion, the separation process in mills is only to remove leftovers. You’re the one that should remove most of the debris, not the machinery. Also, there’s no guarantee that mills will remove all of them, as I already said.

Are There Any Tools Designed For Leaves and Twigs Removal?

man picking olives from net catcher to the container

There are many specialized tools that can help you remove leaves and twigs from the olives. However, they’re not extremely efficient since they require additional work, and more people should work on them while you’re harvesting.

Furthermore, they slow down the harvesting process a lot. And as you already know, after they’re harvested, olives should be transported to mill facilities as soon as possible.

The biggest disadvantage of twigs and leaves separation devices is that there’s no one-size-fits-all tool that’ll be adequate for all olive species. Fruits from various olive cultivars are different sizes, if the grid on the separation tool is too small or too big, it won’t get the job done properly.

Luckily, these tools are improving too, so now you can already find leaf separators with air, and they’ll work for fruits from all kinds of olive species. They’re not extremely expensive, you can check one type of leave separator here.

If you make olive oil at home or in a traditional way using large grindstones and also have only one type of olives in your orchard, I highly suggest you use these devices since there won’t be any larger re-inspections later on.

Why It’s Important To Remove Them

Even though olive leaves are extremely healthy, too, they should be completely removed from olives when making olive oil.

Reasons to remove leaves, twigs, and other debris before making olive oil:

  • Olive oil should be as clean as possible and made only from olive fruits.
  • Leaves and twigs have a different taste than olives, and they could affect the taste of the olive oil.
  • You’ll reduce the chances of leaves and twigs actually getting pressed with olives.
  • Oil mill machinery is sensitive to hard debris such as rocks, glass, metal, etc.
  • Leaves, twigs, stems, and other debris usually have plenty of dirt and insects on them.

Long story short, the fewer leaves, twigs, stems, and other debris, the better the olive oil quality will be.

What If You Don’t Remove Them

If you completely neglect the separation of twigs and leaves, these things could happen:

  • Olive oil will taste differently.
  • Olive oil won’t be as quality as it could be.
  • You could even affect the olive oil’s health benefits and nutritional properties.
  • Machinery in oil mill facilities could break due to damage caused by hard debris (rocks, glass, etc.).
  • Machinery could clog, making extra cost to mill, and they could charge you for the fix.

It’s much more important than it seems. Here’s an interesting fact – oil mill machinery should usually work for 20+ years. With improper use (unremoved twigs, leaves, debris from olives), the lifespan could shorten to 5 years. Imagine the cost of that.  

Conclusion

I hope that now you understand the importance of removing leaves, twigs, stems, and other debris from the olives before making olive oil. Again, I recommend you separate them on the field while transferring olives from net catchers to containers. From my experience, that’s the most efficient way that won’t consume much of your time.

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