Picking methods in olive harvest have not changed for thousands of years. Hand- picking or shaking method has been used for centuries. The harvest period is between October and February. Harvest with machines is slowly replacing the traditional method of shaking. Today, methods such as body or branch shaking, and picking the fruits on the ground using absorbant equipments are being utilized in the machines used for olive harvest. In hand-picking method running off or combing is used and in picking from ground method, roller or brush is used. Among these methods hand-picking requires the most effort. This method where maximum 9-10 kg olive is picked per hour enables olive oil production with the highest quality if the fruit is good.
Another tradition that has not changed in olive oil culture for thousands of years is the method of extracting oil from olive as olive oil can be consumed without any chemical process. An olive fruit has approximately 20% oil, 40% vegetable water and 40% solid matter. There is no difference in olive oil extraction methods of today and the past. Olives are pressed and the paste form is obtained. Then the paste is pressed. Eventually, the oil is separated from the vegetable water. Hydraulic press machines were started to be used in the beginning of the 19th century due to the technological improvements. Today, instead of hydraulic press machines, machines that enable olive oil extraction from olive paste by centrifugal force are being used. These are called “Continuous Systems”.
Continuous systems are fully automatic machines. High quality olive oil can not be obtained from the olive falling on the ground, therefore, they are processed separately. During the separation process of the leaves called cone, olives on washing machines are cleaned from the leaves, soil or branches, pressed and crushed in the crusher. Olives crushed at 1000-2500 rpm speed are collected in mixers. Mixer is the section where olives are kneaded. In this section, olives are kneaded for approximately 45-55 minutes in paste form to extract olive oil. The paste is then transferred to decanter section and the oil is separated from olive pomace and vegetable water. Olive oil cleaned by centrifuge is put in stainless steel tanks, and left in resting tank to be separated from its sediments. It is filled in cans or bottles.
In order to obtain high quality olive oil, undamaged olive should be harvested at the right time by using appropriate methods, and should be immediately and appropriately processed at olive press plants. It is very important that the olives should be processed as soon as possible after the harvest. Because if olives are kept waiting, they will be fermented. This reduces the quality of olive oil and it loses its extra virgin characteristics. Therefore, the olives should be kept in punched plastic cases that have a 20-25 kg capacity. The variety of the olive tree, geographical characteristics of the region, climate conditions, implementation of agricultural pest control, fertilization or irrigation, harvest time and method, the technology used for olive oil extraction, storage conditions and packing material affects the quality of olive oil. Modern, complex and developed analysis methods are used in order to identify the quality of the olive oil. Even 1% vegetable oil contamination can be identified using gas chromatography and liquid chromatography devices. It is also crucial to identify and evaluate the flavor and excellence which are identified as sensory characteristics of an olive oil. Thus, expert tasters play an active role in this process. Based on the physical, chemical and sensory characteristics, oil is classified as;
Lampant olive oil which is not suitable for food consumption is refined using water steam distillation and bleaching soil without being exposed to any chemical reaction. Refined olive oil is blended with extra virgin olive oil in certain ratio and olive oil quality is obtained.