The trees in tis old growth grove are picked using time honored harvest methods: hand picking and pole picking.
The olive trees bloom in late April and begin to set fruit in May. As late fall approaches the fruit is getting plump and starts to change color from green to yellowish, then red-purple (this transition is called veraison). The fruit on any given tree will vary from green to purple. The start of harvest happens when enough fruit has hit veraison and we feel we have the color mix we want. The time of this transition is different for each variety. In general, the earlier we pick the higher the poly-phenol and the more bitter the oil will taste. Later harvests will produce a lower poly-phenol level and a smoother more-buttery flavor. This is an exciting time as we are anxious to start but need to wait until the olives are ready for the best oil. We generally start picking Manzanillo in early November, Mission in early December and Ascolano in early to mid-December.
Hand picking sends workers high into the branches of the trees on tripod ladders. The pickers strip the olives from the branches with their fingers and gently pull them into a basket strapped to their chest. This basket is emptied into holding boxes and later counted and put into bins to transfer to the mill. We also use pole picking for the larger trees where tarps or nets are spread beneath the tree and the picker strikes a branch with a pole, shaking the olives free. The tarps/nets are pulled up to slide the olives into the holding boxes.
One of the most critical variables in producing high quality oils like MoonShadow Grove is the time between picking and milling. Once our olives have been picked, we take great pride in efficiently coordinating all the steps to keep all times at an absolute minimum. Our olives arrive at the mill within 24 hours of picking, ensuring award winning qualities.
At the mills, the olives are washed and crushed or milled by forcing the olives through a fine grid. The olive paste is fed into a malaxer, gently mixing the resulting paste to allow time for the oil to be released from the broken cell walls. The paste is then moved into a centrifuge to separate the fresh oil from the water and the solids (skin, pits, meat). Fresh and fragrant oil pours from a spout into stainless steel containers.
Freshly pressed oil, also called oil nuevo, has an amazing aroma and the clean, fresh flavor of ripe fruit. Breathe deeply when you open one of our bottles to see why fresh California extra virgin olive oil is superior to any other olive oil you have tasted.