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Olive trees (Olea Europaea) are by far the most prolific trees on the island of Crete.   They are not at all fussy and will grow on the poorest of soils.   Some are grown to produce olives for eating, however the majority are cultivated for their oil.  Olives

We planted 18 tiny (9 inch/25cm) rooted olive cuttings in 2003 and they very quickly grew into fairly substantial trees; most are now over two metres tall.  They produced their first small crop in 2007 and the quantity continues to increase every year.   In January 2009 we filled seven sacks totaling 267kg (588lb): 

Bags of olives

With few exceptions, the days of home pressing olives are long gone and, just like everyone else, we take our olives to a modern processing plant to be transformed into oil.   Each customer's batch of olives is processed separately.  

olive processing plant

The sacks of olives are emptied into a hopper and carried up the conveyer belt shown on the right.   Blowers located at the top of the conveyer separate and remove leaves and other loose matter. The  olives then fall into the chamber below where they are washed before being transferred, via another conveyer belt (left of center), to the maceration chambers. Olive maceration chamber

The macerated remains are then pumped into the grey and  blue 'elephant' centrifugal separator which separates the oil from the remains, or olive pomace.  Incidentally, the olive pomace or 'piranethee' (as it is known locally) is not wasted, it is burnt as an energy source with both domestic and industrial uses.  One of our local stills burns piranethee to boil the grape pomace which in turn produces the high alcohol content spirit Tsikoudia, commonly known as Raki.  More about that on my grapes & wine page  olive processing plant

On the left, just below the elephant, the fresh oil can be seen filling the rectangular stainless steel tank sitting on the weighbridge.  In the center of the picture are the the six individual maceration chambers.  The contents of each chamber can be independently routed to the centrifugal separator, thereby ensuring each batch is kept separate from another.      

Fresh olive oil

From here, the oil is weighed and the acidity* level measured.    The processing plant takes its percentage of oil and issues a receipt.  The balance of oil is then pumped into the owner's container(s) ready to be loaded into their vehicle and taken away.  No money changes hands. 


Our 267kg of olives, after the removal of leaves etc and the processing plant's cut, left us with exactly 50kg of oil.  Its acidity was measured at 0.5% so that firmly places it in the Extra Virgin category.  Since olive oil is about 10% lighter than water, 50kg = 55 litres of oil.  That should be enough to last us the whole year.  


*For full details on acidity, the chemical and nutritional properties of olive oil and much more, please see the Olive Oil Source website: 

Tim Rainey 2009


 Feedback, questions and comments welcome
Last updated:  2 January 2010
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