The second weekend of December, we’ve decided, like many Greeks at this time of year, to experience with our family and friends the traditional process of making our own olive oil : olive picking, transportation and crushing at the oil mill.
Harvesting olives in Corinthia
We begun our journey by going to our estate in Mavra Litharia, a village in Corinthia, where we have lemon trees, orange trees, tangerine trees and a few olive trees. The estate and the house are just by the sea and can accommodate up to 11 persons. This traditional house, inherited from my grandfather, can be rented and is totally family friendly. You can find more information about renting the house here.
We bought all the supplies we needed for the olive picking : nets to spread under the trees, rakes and sticks for shaking the trees. Harvesting olives is a difficult job but also a great opportunity for family gatherings.
How do you pick olives?
First, we placed the nets under one tree. Picking by pruning is a smart technique that modern farmers use so we decided to do the same. One of us was pruning, taking off the tallest and central branches. The rest of us were dislodging the olives from the branches using a rake. Each olive was falling on the nets very easily. Children, event small ones, can use these rakes and help.
To take off the olives still on the branches, we used sticks to shake it. Children loved this part even more!
At the end we gathered all the olives from the nets to put it in crates.
Sorting ant putting olives in sacks
When we finished the picking, we went inside by the fireplace to get warm and rest having a nice “fasolada” (bean soup), wine and salad from our vegetable garden. Then we started separating olives from the leaves. We put all the olives in burlap sacks.
We manage to harvest 100 kilos.
At the olive oil mill
Choosing an olive oil mill was quite difficult. If we decided to go in Corinthia, they would mix our small quantity of olives with other people’s. So we looked for a small scale olive mill that could exclusively process our olives following a natural cold pressed without any additives. And we found it in Athens at Perivoli sti Vari.
The Perivoli sti Vari has a small olive mill for cold pressed olive oil, ideal for small quantities. During the oil production period, the mill is housed in a small greenhouse and every Athenian can come and make his own olive oil even with a small harvest from his garden. The big difference is that you have your olive oil from your own olives.
Anna, the Orchard’s owner, decided to abandon her career in fashion to create this vivid farm near Athens. She follows permaculture’s principles and tries numerous methods to reduce her orchard’s carbon footprint. You can come with your family and visit the orchard, eat in its fabulous restaurant and participate in different activities. It’s located 20 minutes from the airport and 20 km from the city center.
All the Agrotourism activities (picking Greek herbs and Olive oil, Olive Oil and Honey with certified instructors, etc.) and Cooking classes can be organized in english and italian for foreign visitors. Having a stroll at Perivoli sti Vari is ideal even if you are in Athens for a few hours.
The on-site restaurant “Kouzina tou Perivoliou” offers a variety of farm-to-table dishes prepared under the guidance of executive chef Yiannis Stanitsas and is ideal for a family meal or a business dinner .
And olives are becoming oil…
Kostas welcomed us very warmly in the small mill and we were able to watch all the process of making olives to oil : weighing, removing the leaves, twigs, and other debris, washing, crushing the olives into a paste, malaxing the paste, separating the oil from the rest of the olive components.
Our children were thrilled to see and participate through all the process and they tasted the first oil coming out of the machine. It was a great satisfaction to have made it and now we are starting the preparation of olives for eating!
Don’t forget that the olive tree is one of the most valuable assets of greek nature and we owe to protect it and take good care of it.
Did you know that some people take care of olive trees as if they were work of arts? In Crete, Morgane and her collaborators restore abandoned olive trees in order to produce oil again. You can read here about this incredible work and don’t hesitate to visit them if you go to Crete.
Did you go picking olives to make your own oil? Tell us about it and don’t hesitate to tell us about your wishes or questions in order for us to organize in the best way your family holidays in Greece!
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From a French mother and a Greek father, Katia Papaspiliopoulos, has been working and living in both countries. She studied Philosophy and Culture Management in Paris and soon started creating educational programs for children, schools and adults in various cultural institutions. She’s currently living and working in Athens and has two daughters.