Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Olive Picking in Athens~Greece

Last November I travelled to Athens with my food blogger friend Heidi. The whole trip was planned so that we could attend the olive harvesting and see the olives being pressed into olive oil.

Greece is the third largest Olive Oil producer in the world. It's warm climate and hilly terrain makes it the perfect place for the olive trees to grow. There is a mythological story that states that Goddess Athena created the Olive tree for the Ancient Greeks so that they can sustain life. 

The olive trees start to form new branches in the spring and you can see the new growth and flowers blooming. Throughout the summer the olives grow under the Greek summer heat. The olive trees bask in the summer sun for months and finally they are ready for harvest in October and November.

Olive harvesting is a labour of love. The majority of harvesting is done by hand. Large green nets are laid under the trees and the pickers shake and comb the branches using a special rake to release the olives from the branches.

My first hand experience at Olive harvesting was very interesting and it made me realise how much effort is needed to comb the branches to harvest the olives.

We had a wonderful opportunity to have a hands on experience harvesting olives. It certainly was fun and very interesting, however it was hard work as care has to be taken to ensure the olives do not get damaged or bruised during the harvesting process.

Once harvested they are gathered from the nets, picked and sorted removing any leaves and branches before they are  loosely packed in crates for safe transportation. 

The olives are cleaned and washed before they are either preserved or pressed for oil. The olive oil production starts in early October and ends late December.

The art of pressing the precious oil out of the fruit of the olive tree has been passed on from generation to generation. This interest and commitment to the cultivation of the olive tree has made Greece the world's third largest producer of olive oil. 

We were fortunate to visit an small Olive Oil Mill in Athens to see how the olives were pressed to extract the oil. It was interesting to see the olives transferred from the crates and sacks into a large feeder. We were able to walk around the mill and watch the entire process they went through from cleaning, pressing, centrifugation, decanting and filtration to reach the final product.

Most Greeks own olive trees and they harvest and press olives to make enough oil to last them throughout the year, until the next harvest. The smaller mills similar to the one we visited in Markopoulon -Athens offer the facility to have small quantities pressed for domestic use.

The manufactured olive oil is graded and the grading all depends on the climate, soil, olive variety and the harvesting methods of the olives. All these factors are of importance to get a good quality olive oil.

There are three types of Greek Olive Oil

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

All Greek olive oil is extracted by a cold pressing process which is chemical free. For the oil to pass as Extra Virgin Grade they need to have an acidity level which is less than 1%.  

Refined Olive Oil

Any pressed Greek olive oil that has an acidity level greater than 2%, has to go through a refining process. Once it has been through this process it is mixed with 35% Extra virgin olive oil and graded as refined olive oil.

Olive Oil Pomace

Olive Oil Pomace is generally used in cooking and the regulation states that is has to be solely made from olive oil and must not contain any other oils. The Greek olive oil pomace is a blend of kernel oil, extracted from the pulp and pit solids to which a minimum of 5% extra-virgin oil added, to enhance flavour and aroma.  

Next time you buy olive oil do make sure you are aware of what you are buying as not all olive oil is the same grade.My olive picking experience in Athens-Greece was amazing and I learn't a lot about the different stages of olive harvesting and manufacture. I was fortunate to be able to take home my very own freshly pressed Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil. (We did not have bottles on hand but luckily we were able to take the oil home in some empty clean water bottles.)

My Athens travels have been really enjoyable and if you would like to follow my journey please check out the posts linked below:

Places to visit around the Athenian Riveria

Dining out in Athens

Things to do in Athens

We stayed in Athens for 7 days. In my next post, I will share my experience of a Greek Cookery class with the Greek Key, our trip to Poseidon Temple in Sounion and the day out to Evia Island.



  1. Ooooooh, this is such a special experience - and I'm intrigued to learn that most Greeks own their own olive trees! Such a good idea!

  2. That looks like a brilliant trip. I would love to visit Athens one day. The olive picking looks brilliant too!

  3. What an amazing eperience, I never knew that most Greeks owned their own olive trees how amazing must that be

  4. I didn't realise so much was done by hand, it makes me appreciate the effort that goes into making my food. what a fun experience

  5. I love the idea of olive picking , will have to look here if anywhere its done or not. you are lucky to have this kind of experience

  6. Oh wow I bet this was an amazing experience to take part in, just seeing the whole process and getting to be part of it is incredible.

  7. I never realaised that the olives we picked by hand! I definitely have a whole new appreciation for the work that goes into growing and harvesting the olives, before turning them into oil. I always wondered about the tiers of oil too, so glad to finally know what extra virgin olive oil is!

  8. This looks like such a great trip. We're (hopefully) going to Greece next year and I'd love to go olive picking while we're there <3

    Louise x

  9. That must have been fun. Nice detailed post on olives. I wish I had time to spare for it too. But there was so much to see in Greece. This is one place I always would like to go again and again.

  10. It was a pleasure reading your travelogue. Loved the way you have detailed the olive harvesting to olive oil making process ... very informative and interesting

  11. Oh wow.. I thoroughly enjoyed your post and the pictures gave a real time experience. Seriously, olive picking is one of my list to do in the future. Such a detailed post and very informative. Thanks for sharing with us.

  12. What an amazing experience! I would love to visit Athens one day - it always sounds like such a fascinating place especially when you get to do things like this.

  13. Been to athens but never picked olives - something to conside4 next time


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