I live for olive

Olive season has just come to and end…and by olive season I mean that the olives ripened, were harvested, and either pressed for oil or cured to turn them edible.  Did you know that both black olives and green olives come from the same tree?  Here is a very ripe olive from our family farm.

Did you also know that harvesting olives by hand is a labor intensive business?  In Morocco it’s all done this way: a large plastic is laid out under the tree, then you take a long bamboo stick and start to beat at the olives to knock them down.  Eventually you have to climb the tree to get to the higher branches.  Olives yield about 16 liters of olive oil per 100 kgs of olives, depending on how much the trees were watered.  The more they were watered, the juicier the olives.

I will never forget when I was 8 years old and I spent a whole day knocking all the olives off a particular tree.  At the end of the day, I had very sore hand and about 20 kgs of olives.  I was very excited to lug my harvest down the road to where they would buy them from you for about a dirham per kilo (like 6 cents per pound, for those of you who are allergic to the metric system).  I walked back with more than 20 dirhams in my pocket (2.5 dollars).  I’d never been prouder of my earnings (maybe even to this day :-).  It didn’t occur to me that those olives actually belonged to my parents, and that technically, I owed them like 90% of the money.  They kindly didn’t point it out either.

Everywhere in the Moroccan countryside, you see olive trees, and under them there is wheat or barley growing.  Each farming family gets olive oil and flour for the entire year.  This way they have fresh bread and olive oil, which, along with sweet green tea, is a meal unto itself.  Talk about local, sustainable, organic and vegan….This is how it all once was.



12 thoughts on “I live for olive

  1. Marocain says:

    And this is how it should always be. Unfortunately, plenty of young Moroccans are now all urbanized and have lost that link to earth. They have lost their roots and they are imprisoned in concrete jungles.
    I too, was raised in a small town where fields and farms surrounded the town, and we used to spend countless hours in those fields. In fact, I can name any fruit tree or plant by sight.
    Thanks for sharing and helping me relive my youth years.

    • Wow, what a wealth of knowledge you have gained. I took my childhood for granted, but now I realize that the countless hours spent on the land have worked their way into the fibers of my being, and for that I am grateful, alhamdulillah.

  2. fadwa says:

    Salaam Nora,

    Thank you so much for sharing. I, too, have many happy memories picking olives from our family trees. It is such a blessing to pick from trees planted by our forefathers and then reap the benefits 🙂 Olives and olive oil plus a connection to the Earth.

    Interestingly, in Palestine, we would never “beat” the trees. The olives are traditionally hand picked and anyone who uses a stick is considered a “tree abuser.” Ultimate respect for the trees and the fruit they bear.

    I hope to see you soon and have some tea, bread, and olive oil with you.


    • Salam Fadwa,
      That’s so interesting that you hand pick the olives. I’ve heard that it’s the only way to ensure a full harvest year after year. Here in Morocco it tends to alternate, a good year with a poor year. I heard about a man here who only hand picks, and apparently he gets a good harvest every year. It’s because when you “abuse the tree” as you put it, you are actually knocking off olives as well as the little twigs they grow on, which apparently next year’s olives would come from. Thanks for the enlightenment Fadwa, you are welcome for khobs, zait wa shay anytime.

  3. What a lovely post!
    We used to pick apples way back when in England and I know how to pick them without bruising them and how to store them in a cool attic nestled in paper
    and never letting one apple touch another.
    So good to be close to nature.

  4. carissa says:

    Oh my gosh, our daily “second breakfast” of olive oil, freshly baked bread and mint tea is my fave! Especially since it always comes after my morning workout and shower! Love it!!!

  5. Thank you for this lovely post. I was very happy to see that you harvest at about 60% green 40% black, which will yield a bit less oil, but give a more fresh and healthy taste. I love the idea of having bread and oil and tea from the same land and your photos and words take the reader right there to your groves!

    A traditional issue with hand harvested oils for those with larger groves is that the process is so labor intensive that the tendency is to harvest 100% black, which means higher yield, but also a lot of overripe fruit, some unfortunate percentage of rotten fruit, and lower polyphenols, which mean a shorter shelf life. Your production seems to avoid this pitfall; the fruit on your plastic sheets looks plump and healthy.

    Regarding on and off years — it is not just Morocco, but globally that yields vary year to year. Olives are biennial with strong harvests followed by more modest ones. Finally, pruning is critical to production as new fruit comes from that new growth — a nod to your comment about losing the little twigs to the benefit of next year’s new fruiting wood.

    When you refer to sweet green tea were you meaning traditional mint tea, or have you tried tea made from olive leaves?

    Thanks again for your post on olives; I’m a subscriber and enjoy reading all of your work.

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