Harvesting the olives

There are 5 different varieties of olive trees growing around Casa de Afufa, if I understood correctly the machine gun Spanish bombarding me when I asked the question. Each are used for different products; olive oil (I believe that this is the main crop), the green pickled olives served in all the bars in the area (every family has its own recipe for the pickling process) and black olives for eating. I am certain that there are also other products I haven't come across. All are harvested at different times and all are dependent upon the weather.

Normally harvesting starts in January/February and ends in March/April culminating with a local festival, San Marcos, in mid to late April to celebrate the end of the harvest.

The harvesting process for each tree starts by laying nets around the bottom of the tree which are then propped up on the lower edges to stop stray olives escaping.

Next a huge caterpillar tractor device moves in and grabs one of the hefty trunks on the tree. The engine of the tractor roars, the ground begins to vibrate and the grabbing device shakes the tree until the outer leaves and branches turn to a blur. The ripe olives fall off the branches onto the net.

Throughout the shaking process the other olive workers constantly hit the branches of the tree with long sticks. This firstly knocks off all the stubborn olives which would not be shaken free but also, supposedly, the beating stimulates the tree to produce more olives the following year.

The olives are then collected up in the nets and loaded into a trailer which is taken down to the co-operative olive press just on the outskirts of Iznajar. You can buy olive oil directly from the co-operative (this used to boast a label depicting the lake at Iznajar but, unfortunately, last year a number of cooperatives merged, including the Iznajar cooperative, and the bottles now have a very boring label). Not only is this cheaper than in the supermarkets, it has a better flavour and you know that you are tasting olive oil from the trees you see in the surrounding area!