Along with grapes, citrus fruits and Mediterranean herbs, olives are popular self-sufficient plants. The trees, which are mainly kept in pots, are ideal for your own kitchen garden due to their high yield and numerous processing options. If you want to harvest your olives, you should choose the right time, depending on the degree of ripeness.
Olive cultivation in Germany
It is known that olives are quite unsuitable for cultivation in Germany due to the cool climate. For this reason, they are cultivated in pots, as they can thus be transported to a suitable roost over the winter. The formation of flowers is also possible, which means that the olive tree bears aromatic fruits towards autumn. So far, olive groves have been planted near Cologne (abandoned in 2008), on the Moselle (abandoned in 2010) and in the Kraichgau in Baden-Württemberg. Only in Kraichgau have the olive trees survive since 2008 and even small fruits ripen. So it is possible to keep olive trees outside if you live in the warmest corners of Germany, but planting containers for personal use is much more profitable.
Tip: If you live in one of the southern wine-growing regions, for example in Baden or the Palatinate, you can try to plant your olive tree. But you need extremely good winter protection in winter, which consists of a root heating system for the roots and heat protection mats for the crown and trunk.
Harvesting olives – time
The time of harvest has a significant effect on the taste of the olives. The reason for this is the maturity level, which is influenced by five basic factors:
- available hours of sunshine
- Ambient temperature
Depending on where you live, the fruits will ripen sooner or later. Due to the rather cool temperatures and the low number of hours of sunshine compared to North Africa or the Mediterranean, olive harvesting is usually only possible in late autumn from mid-October. The fruits on the olive tree go through three stages, which also depend on the factors mentioned above. As they ripen, the aroma of the small fruits changes, which affects their uses. That means you can harvest olives based on your preferences or processing plans.
Harvest your harvest at an early stage if you prefer green olives.
These are actually unripe fruits that can be consumed without any problems. However, at this point they are still so bitter that their aroma is completely inedible. You can clearly see this degree of ripeness by the color of the fruits, as they shine in a light green, which indicates that they are not yet ripe. They are also a bit smaller than the fully matured specimens. Important points to keep in mind at the early stage are:
- Bitter substances : the green, unripe fruits contain high amounts of polyphenols, which act as bitter substances and make the olives inedible for direct consumption. While they are edible and not poisonous, they do not taste good. If you can find green fruits in stores, they are those that are harvested at the beginning of the second stage and have a milder aroma.
- Intended use : the early stage harvest is traditionally used to produce olive oil. The polyphenols contained are retained even after pressing and thus ensure an ideal aroma, which can be used excellently for cooking.
- Period : The period of unripe stone fruits is extremely long and can begin as early as the end of summer. For this reason, most of the fruits hang on the trees at this stage. Depending on the temperature of the location, this condition can last into October or even November.
From the intermediate stage you can harvest the first olives and even eat them fresh from the olive tree. You can recognize this degree of ripeness by the color of the olives:
- yellowish green: at the beginning of the phase
- reddish purple: at the end of the phase
Experience has shown that the first phase occurs two to three months after fruit formation and lasts for about four to six weeks until the final stage occurs. The content of bitter substances has already fallen so far that you can harvest them without any problems. Compared to the early stage, the fruits now have the following properties:
- softer pulp
- easier to chew
- milderes Aroma
- slight sharpness
- The core is colored with
This clearly shows that this is the intermediate stage of harvest time. At this point the stone fruits can be picked from the trees even more easily, as they are a little heavier and larger. The more fruit your trees produce, the harder it will be for the tree to keep them. As soon as the olives have turned a reddish-purple color, they are about to ripen.
The final stage of olive ripening shows itself in black, heavy fruits that can fall from the tree at any moment.
Depending on where you live, the state of full maturity extends from early November to January. The number of hours of sunshine available is particularly important here. In the final stage, the fruits have the following properties:
- colored black throughout
- even black core
- mild to sweet aroma
- hardly any sharpness
- almost free from bitter substances
- higher number of calories (353.7 kcal per 100 g)
Black olives are best for direct consumption, in dishes, or for pickling. Olive oils made from fully ripe fruits are golden in color, but do not last that long. Be careful that you harvest the black fruits early enough, as they can quickly fall to the ground and absorb unpleasant aromas.
Tip: If you have only enjoyed black olives from the supermarket until now, you will be amazed by the aroma of the fruits you picked yourself. Black supermarket olives are mostly yellow-green fruits that are colored black with the food additive E 579 (iron-II-gluconate), which can be recognized by the black pulp and a green core.
Harvesting olives is easy with a variety of methods that are effective for self-catering. Since you’re not growing olives commercially and are likely to grow potted plants, you don’t have to rely on joggers, tractors, or pneumatic combs. These are needed for large-scale harvest. The following are suitable harvesting methods for you:
- per Hand
- Knock down
- pick up from the ground
Chopping it down is not really recommended, along with the other harvesting methods, as it can damage many of the fruit and even the tree. This method is a traditional variant of the olive harvest that is not really worth it. It is best to harvest by hand, as this is particularly gentle and retains most of the aromas. When you pick olives from the ground, they often take on unpleasant taste nuances, which are particularly noticeable in homemade olive oil.