ExperiencePlus! Blog

Helping with the Olive Harvest

Helping with the Olive Harvest

What do a bunch of tour leaders do as soon as their tour leading season is over? Travel, of course!

This coming winter, you’ll find our European tour leaders traveling in Argentina (leading mountain bike tours) and Peru (hiking the Inca trail), Bali (traveling and volunteering), Ethiopia (leading a group of Fair Trade store volunteers), Cuba (biking), Chile and Argentina (leading bike tours), the United States (traveling and working), the Barbados Islands (windsurfing) and more yet-undecided places!

But first, a small group of tour leaders met during Thanksgiving week in Kalamata, Greece at the home of tour leader Yorgos Paraskevopoulos to pick olives and ride bikes. And what a week it was! We had sun, warmer weather than France, Italy or Colorado, and lots of great food and fun!

Kalamata is famous for its olives, both the table olive variety by the same name (Kalamata), and its smaller variety called Koroneiki, which is used for making into olive oil, so we were excited to be working in important olive territory. Yorgos has about 200 trees of both varieties that he manages for his family, and we set out to one of his fields to pick some of both. The Koroneiki olives are best picked when plump but still green (all olives are first green and then turn black; so green olives are olives picked before they turn black), while the Kalamata olives are best when picked black. Over two days of work, we picked olives from 8 or 9 trees and ended up with about 285 kilos of Koroneiki olives and about 50 kilos of Kalamata olives. Out of 286 kilos of olives (97% Koroneiki), we pressed 31 kilos of olive oil, producing a yield of 1:9. Considering there were 8 of us and we worked for two days, our yield was not as impressive to the locals as it was to us—they would have easily finished at least 20 trees and doubled the amount of olives…..but hey, we were learning and on vacation! Plus, we’ll be more prepared for next year…..

See our photo essay about our two days of olive picking in Kalamata and our trip to the olive press where we cajoled them into letting us press our small amount of olives. They obligingly consented, laughing at our excitement and small yield…

The first sack of Koroneiki olives!

Monica and Igor loading up ollives

A happy group with 28 liters of our very own olive oil!