The picking of the olives in Achaia starts as early as October, when the fruit is still not fully mature to produce "agourelaio" ("immature" olive oil). This oil has a strong peppery taste and is highly appreciated and sought after by olive oil connoisseurs, as it is not readily available. Normal picking time begins in November when the fruit turns from greenish to purple-black. The best time to pick is when the fruit is three quarters black. It is then that the best bouquet and low acidity is achieved.
The fruit is handpicked manually from the trees, using ladders to reach the upper branches and a rake-like device, which is dragged over the branches by hand causing the olives to fall onto nets or large fabric pieces that are spread on the ground around the tree. At the same time that the olive fruit is picked, the tree is trimmed as required. This is a job that calls for the whole family to help. Even relatives that live in cities are invited to join in and share in the hard work under difficult weather conditions at times. Neighbors, friends and relatives help each other by picking each otherís olives when theirs are not ready yet or they are waiting for the next lot. Everyone shares in this strenuous, time consuming and exhausting effort. This is one of the reasons why our Eliki olive oil might be a little more expensive than olive oils produced in other countries, or even other areas of Greece. In order to ensure that the fruit is not damaged during picking times, the picking is done by hand which of course is a very costly process.
Achaia olive growers DO NOT use permanent nets for the picking of olives. These are nets that are spread out on the ground throughout the entire harvesting period to gather the olives that fall spontaneously. This method is suitable for dense olive groves located on slopes. However, the olives often remain on the trees too long to assure acceptable quality and once they fall from the tree they deteriorate even more as they sit on the net.
Achaia olive growers place large nets or large pieces of fabric under the tree and they start the hand picking of olives and trimming of the tree at that time. Depending on this size of the tree, it can take two people between two hours to half a day to pick an olive tree. A good harvester can pick about 80 kg of olives each day and it takes 5 kg of olives to make a litre of oil. This is why olive oil is so expensive compared to other oils. The fruit when picked is placed in baskets and carried out of the field. Most Achaia olive groves were first planted a very long time ago and in many cases there are no roads available to take the fruit off the field. Farmers at times, have to resort to primitive means of transport such as mules and donkeys or even carry the fruit themselves for significant distances through the field. Although it is very picturesque to witness it, at the same time it is a painstaking effort laced with anxiety to catch up with time. Olives in order to give their best have to be pressed within a very short time after picking, and that is what is actually done.