Our first view of the Koroneiki olive. The best olive oil comes from the plump but still green olives.
Yorgos' field of olives in his father's village near Kalamata, Greece.
Yorgos shows us the first step in olive picking: spreading nets out underneath the trees to pick.
Maria Elena and Igor spreading nets on sloped ground.
Nets are square, but have to go around tree trunks so there are no holes...or you lose precious olives!
Igor assessing our progress.
Yorgos and his new extendable chainsaw (the old way caused lots of falls...). In Greece, they cut the branches with the most olives at picking time to allow new branches to grow olives next year.
Yorgos teaches us that we won't actually be "picking" olives, but will be beating them from branches that he prunes...we're to use what look like small canes with a hook underneath.
Yorgos would cut branches and we would all beat (or whack!). When locals want to know if olives are ready for harvest, they'll ask each other--are the olives falling? Our olives were falling like a charm! From the left, Seth, Maria Elena, Michele, Igor and Stefania beating hard.
Maria Elena on Thanksgiving break from her MBA...relaxing? Venting?
Not all branches have to be cut or pruned, so those with olives on them that get to stay on the tree have to be "picked" with a long handled rake. Yorgos here reaches the highest olives.
Our work site.
When an olive tree was finished and all olives were off the branches, we collected the nets to channel the olives into one heap.
Pull!!!! From the left, Stefania, Igor, Yorgos, Jonathan, Seth, Monica, Maria Elena (and Michele behind the camera).
Since beating olive branches doesn't prevent small twigs with olives from falling too, we had to separate out the twigs that still had olives so the press would not discard good olives along with the twigs and leaves it automatically separates from the olives.
Once we were satisfied, we started filling burlap sacks. Careful not to push them off the net!
Our first sack of Koroneiki olives--while we picked several of the green olives, we also picked some of the darker ones. Sure enough, our olive oil was darker than others' who had tried to just pick the green ones.
Maria Elena taking a break on a tree.
Monica and Michele on a break on pruned branches.
Monica and Igor loading up olives. Olives are heavier than bikes; we aren't used to this on bike tours.
But Yorgos is.
Packing the van with all of our equipment (those Thule bike racks come in handy for strapping in ladders....).
To the olive press!! This area is dotted with small presses that press olives for a percentage of the oil--of our 31 liters, they took 3 for themselves.
The owner watching our olives going up the ramp to get washed and separated from leaves and twigs. Once washed, they are weighed and then put through a first press that crushes the olives.
The crushed olives are then poured into a vat with stone wheels and pressed for 20 minutes or so.
Olive mush being poured into the next step at the press.
The olive mush spends another 20 or so minutes in the mixer (ours are where Monica and Stefania are). Notice the small note--it has Yorgos' grandfather's name on it and accompanies the olives as they go through the press so that several different people's olives can be simultaneously pressed. Igor is watching another person's load of olives being poured into the mixer after ours was sealed in its container.
After going through the centrifuge, the liquid gold began to pour out!
The owner and his father filling our jugs of oil.
Our happy group with 28 liters of our very own olive oil!!! From the left, Michele, Yorgos, Maria Elena, Seth, Monica, Stefania, Igor, Jonathan.