A visit to the Olave organic olive groves and almazara (olive oil mill) prompted this photo essay on one of my favorite products: fresh Chilean olive oil.
It’s autumn in Chile. Most of the crops are in, the grapes have happily fermented into wine, and now it’s olive season. Chile makes some of the best olive oil around, and it goes something like this:
In Chile, olives for oil are harvested in May and June. Men on one side, women on the other (wonder why that is!) (Notice all the dust in the air after the tree shaking!)
Harvesters begin by laying big plastic tarps under the trees. A small tractor equipped with giant “paws” latches onto the trunk of the tree and shakes it vigorously, knocking most of the olives onto the tarp. The pickers then approach the tree with special vibrating rakes called Olivium to knock the rest of the rest of the olives to the ground.
After working many harvest seasons, Lorena now operates the tree-shaking tractor that they call a "boogie" (buggy). She believes she is the first woman in Latin America to have the job.
Special vibrating shake-rattle-and-rakes called "Olivium" used for harvesting olives.
I had to give it a try. They strapped the orange power back on my back and handed me the Olivium to shake a few olives loose. (That thing gets heavy pretty quickly!)
Laugh of the day: watching the gringa try to wield the Olivium.
Gabriela, one of several women who zip around on mini-tractors during the olive harvest at Olave.
Women gather the olives in the tarps from under the trees.
At the almazara (oil mill) the olives drop from a hopper onto a conveyor belt and into a machine to to separate the leaves from the olives.
The clean olives are ground, pits and all, into a paste and then centrifuged.
From olives to oil in less than an hour! The taste is fairly neutral at this point because it still has a high water content. The new oil will be decanted in stainless steel tanks (much like wine tanks), where the water and solids will separate out over the course of a week or so.
Viera Martínez, Olave's "frantoiana" runs the oil mill. She makes the basic oils that will later be blended by owner Elvio Olave and specialist Mariluz Hurtado. Everyone who enters the processing plant must cover their hair (even the visiting journalists).
Quality control on the bottling line.
Long strips of adhesive Olave garlic olive oil labels on the labeling machine. Olave also makes basil, lemon, and merkén chili pepper oils in addition to their standard organic oil.
The final step: boxing up the finished olive oil for distribution.
For more information on Olave Chilean Olive Oils, see their www.olave.cl.