December 11, 1998
Harvest time is finally here. The Olive Oil Source team was invited to help pick olives at the Calaveras Olive Oil Company groves in the California foothills by owner Ed Rich.
Lucky us! It was a clear warm day with a threat of rain in the forecast which sped us at our task. The grove is on a southern hillside and is planted in a square pattern with frantoio trees. Every fourth row are leccinos for cross pollination. Irrigation is via drip lines from a well and reservoir which deliver several gallons several days of the week during the long hot summer. Ed had cut off all irrigation 6 weeks ago to increase the oil to water ratio in the olives. The trees are just 4 years old so are perfect for picking without ladders or rakes.
We milked the olives into buckets tied around our necks. Directing the olives into the bucket and not onto the ground and avoiding damage to the trees takes some practice. Dumping the buckets was doubly satisfying; a sudden relief from the weight and a visual treat as the multicolored fruit tumbled into the orchard boxes.
Most of the olives were picked ripe with a few green ones. Ed says he would have liked to have waited for further ripening but had to take advantage of the break in the weather. For this particular hillside grove, fellow pickers were other growers who hope Ed will reciprocate the favor and hangers-on such as ourselves. By mid-afternoon we had a load of olives ready to go to the Critelli mill in Richmond. Ed says he prefers their processing because it keeps the sediment from settling in his premium unfiltered oil.