Olive trees in Corfu has a very rich history dating back to at least 1200 years ago. Stroggili, Corfu is where what is known to be the oldest olive tree in Corfu and maybe top 5 in the world is. This is one of 4,000,000 olive trees in Corfu that still produce olives. For much of Corfu’s history olives are the most important since we have relied on harvesting the olives for our income.
Supposedly, the first olive trees were brought over by the Venetians. They told the Greeks that if they planted more and more olives that could use the olive oil basically as a currency. Up until very recently with the spark of tourism this was something everyone did. Even now, every local of Corfu you will find has at least a couple of olive trees unless they have given them away.
The Monk Olive Oil
I have got the pleasure to grow up with George, the owner of The Monk Olive Oil. So I asked him if we talk and get to know more of on the whole process of the harvest. Of course, he said yes. However, first, George was born and raised in Corfu in the village Marmaro. He has been interested and enjoyed being out in nature, much of his life and that is why he decided to study agriculture at a University in Crete. Another place with so much amazing olive oil.
Recently, 2 years ago he decided he wanted to open up a olive oil press. However, not like the rest, he wanted to do a cold press. His goal is to produce the best olive oil, an all year round job not only during the harvest. A lot of what is explained in this article is from my interview with him. It will not be word for word.
The “old way”
Up until recently, the collection of the olives was very different from what it is now. This is of course because of the enormous jump in technology and all the new equipment available.
The “old way” which isn’t the way everywhere, was to plant the olive tree and let it grow… and let it grow. There was no trimming the trees back then. They let the olives trees grow with the mindset, the bigger the tree, the more the olives, the more the olive oil. These olive trees have a lot of curves, unlike your well known cypress tree that goes straight up (which we also have a lot of). When you go into the mountains/hills anywhere in Corfu they will be FULL of them. They also have many holes in them where branches were trying to form but for one reason or another did not.
So how did they get them down?
When you are driving around and you see plenty of olive trees, you will also see many of these black nets folded up. During the month of October, some olives will start to become ripe and fall from the tree. So around that time the owners will also lay down the nets to catch the falling olives. Then every couple of days they will go to pick up the olives off the net. They will use a stick with some nails at the end, to stick into the holes of the net to pull it up to move the olives all into a big pile.
Next they will pour them into special bags for olives and take them directly to the olive oil press! This whole process will take place between October – November.
Also, it is every 2 years. Why? Here on Corfu we have a lot of humidity which waters the olive trees all year round. Therefore we don’t need to. This is a huge advantage. However, this makes the olives produce only every 2 years.
Through out the year there are also other things that are needed to be done to maintain the olives. Cut the grass and cut the vines and branches coming out of the bottom of the trees. You will also see stairs and stairs of rock walls that the olives are on. This was done for easier collection. However, imagine how much work it was to create this layers..
Imagine if you had an apple tree. You waited until the apple fell to make some apple juice. 1. It fell for a reason. It was too ripe. 2. The olive oil will not be as good quality. Not even close. 3. The fall may hurt the olive. 4. It is bad to let it sit for too long. 5. Trimming the tree is good for the tree, it will grow back fuller.
So the olive oil that you get for these kinds of trees in this way doesn’t = Extra virgin Olive oil that you see at the supermarket. This is also why it is not as expensive.
Even though some people do still collect the olives the old way, for different reasons. Many people are switching to the new way. Although, one of the biggest cons of switching to the new way is destroying the natural beauty of these impressive olive groves
Anyways, there are so many more pros.
So, nowadays, many people will want to switch their olive trees from the old way to the new way. For many reasons, and we will discuss them here. First of all, when you trim your trees down to 2-3 meters, you will have a lot of firewood for the next year! After doing this, you may not be able to collect olives for a couple of years until some branches grow back. Once it does, it will be come a 1-2 year thing to trim the branches of the tree.
Fun Fact: Olives are a fruit!
Instead of using the black nets we use a net that is more flexible, easier to transport. This is because we will put it down the day of collection and take it with us when we leave.
How do we get the olives down?
So one of the most important things to get good olive oil is to take it down at the perfect time. This is when it is ripe. You won’t get as much olive oil but you will get better quality. When you have decided it is ripe enough to be taken down, there are these machines that look like a weed wacker except at the end it looks like a fork. All these tips of the “fork” will rotate back and forth, knocking the olives down.
BE careful not to step on them…
After you will put them into a pile, removing the small branches and leaves. The bulk of it at least. One last time, they will go through a machine with a fan and a tunnel that will blow the leaves away and let the olives pass!
After this, it is necessary to immediately do the olive oil for the best quality!
There are some other methods and other machines that are sometimes used. For example, if you are also trimming the tree while collecting the olives, after the branch is down you will HIT the branch with a STICK. It seems pretty ancient but it is the most effective way.
Unless, you have a machine cylinder with spikes coming out that rotates fast, you can take the branch to glaze it through. This machine definitely has a name but I have no clue. This will also take the olives off quickly, with little effort.
Questions with The MONK
- . What does “extra virgin” olive oil mean?
Extra virgin olive oil is an oil that meets certain characteristics, its acidity is up to 0.8, it is bitter, it is spicy and it smells of fresh olive fruit
- How can you tell if it is good olive oil? taste; colour; smell;
An easy way to tell at home if what we got is olive oil is to take a small amount of olive oil and put it in the fridge for 12 hours if it is olive oil it should thicken. It should have a good peppery, spicy and earthy taste.
- What olive oil does Corfu have? name; quality; relationship with others?
The name of Corfu olives is Lionala which was brought to Corfu by the Venetains many years ago. They are tall, curvy and create a lot of shade! Corfu olive oil is one of the richest in vitamins and polyphenols if the necessary precautions are taken in the harvesting and processing of the olive fruit
- How many olives do you need to make 1 liter of olive oil?
In this we cannot say exactly, but we take about 10%, so then for one kilo of oil we have to process 100 kilos of olives.
- Can you reuse olive oil?
You don’t reuse olive oil unless it’s refined but it loses all those vitamins and polyphenols.
- Your own process to make olive oil?
we make olive oil in a traditional way and separate the olive oil in the most ancient and natural way, in tanks without violent centrifugation processes, it is the purest we can extract from the olive fruit!
You can easily contact The Monk Olive Oil by:
2. Call Ahead +306948722154
3. Instagram @themonkoliveoil
4. Facebook @themonkoil
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