Villas Greece: An Island of Olives
By Sonya Newland
Are you lucky enough to be visiting Zakynthos in November or December? If so, you won’t be able to round a bend in the road without driving over a sea of green nets. Locals wave to you from the side of the road before returning to the task at hand. That task is the olive harvest, and you’ll see it everywhere you go at this time of year – for Zakynthos is an island of olives.
Types of Olives
There are many different varieties of olives in Greece. They all have a unique flavour, whether they’re eating olives or varieties that are pressed for oil. One of the most common types you’ll see on Zakynthos are Koroneiki olives. These are small fruits, but they grow abundantly. They’re renowned for creating an olive oil that’s rich in both flavour and health benefits. Koroneiki olives are best harvested when young and green, but you’ll often see them ripened to black on the trees too.
The olive harvest usually begins towards the end of October and it can continue until the end of January. Throughout this time people collect the olives in different ways depending on how they will be used. The olives you’ll usually see being harvested are the ones that are used to make olive oil. Harvesters spread nets out under trees, then cut down the branches and remove the olives. They either do this by hand or by holding the branch in a machine that shakes the olives loose using plastic blades. Long-handled beaters are also used to dislodge olives from the trees.
It’s only the olives destined to be olive oil that are felled from the trees by beating. If they are table olives, for eating, they stay on the trees for longer – to grow larger. When they are ready, workers carefully hand pick them. They check each one to make sure it’s not damaged. The producer packs the olives in salt for up to forty days.
The Pressing Process
Once at the olive press, workers empty the sacks of olives into a machine that separates any twigs and leaves that might still be remaining. From there, the oil extraction process begins. They wash the fruit and then spread it out on a conveyer belt. From there, the olives head for the press itself. Machines crush the fruits, then grind them into a paste using millstone. Afterwards, the oil is separated from the paste in what is sometimes known as the ‘cold press’ stage. The oil is filtered into tanks before being bottled.
There are several olive presses on Zakynthos, and most will happily invite visitors in for a look around. However, for a full tour the best place to visit is our local Olive press –Elies Olive Press. Only a short 10 minute drive from our villas.This is a modern press, but the family has been making some of the finest olive oil on the island for generations. Run now by a brother and sister team you can see how they make the olive oil today, you can take a journey through the history of the olive press in their museum, looking at some of the old machinery. You can taste – and buy – the olive oil, too, including some of the speciality oils , such as those with lemon or garlic.
Locally grown and pressed olive oil is available everywhere on Zakynthos, from the supermarkets to street stalls, so you don’t need to visit an olive press to try some. Most of the olives on the island are organic. But organic is simply traditional here. Even if the label on your bottle of olive oil doesn’t declare its organic status, you can still be pretty sure that it is!
At the Asteri Collection, we have our own olive grove. We harvest our olives in late November and have them pressed into Zakynthos’s distinctive, delicious, organic, extra virgin olive oil. This is freely available at all our villas for our guests to enjoy.
Why not visit Zakynthos next year and enjoy the olive picking season. Stay at the luxury Villas Greece The Asteri Collection.
Contact us to discuss your holiday now.Villas Greece
In an area of outstanding natural beauty on the unspoilt corner of North East Zakynthos you will discover an idyllic spot to spend your Zakynthos experience. Hugged by hills covered in Cypress and Olive trees with views overlooking the sparkling Ionian ocean this is the home of The Asteri Collection.
These three beautifully designed villas have been inspired by the traditional Greek ‘sugar cube’ houses and are a study in bohemian luxury. Here you will find stunning views, luxurious interiors and elegant landscaping.
Private and secluded yet within walking distance of the famous Peligoni Club and the local beach and restaurants of Agios Nikolias these villas cater for all ages and welcome families. Here you can experience laid-back luxury at its best.