Every day, the so-called “early harvest” oils or “first day” oils or any other denomination that refers to the moment, earlier or later, in which the tree is harvested, become fashionable. This is a relatively recent trend. Not long ago, olives were collected at the time the fruit had ripened.
For those moments when, for climatic reasons, the olive was at serious risk of frost, hail, drought, etc., which made it necessary to anticipate the harvest, the tendency was to wait until it reached full maturity.
In some areas, there was also a tendency to allow the olive to ripen for a few more days on the tree, to obtain more “mature” or less intense olive oils. However, these are trends with which olive oils with specific conditions of aroma and flavor are obtained.
Well, like many other things in life, everything seems to have its ideal moment. In the case of olives, this is also the same case.
Veraison is the name for a specific moment in the ripening time of the fruit. We have all seen, ever, fields with olive trees full of green olives. Suddenly, a few days or weeks later those olives have become purple.
Normally, after summer, it is time for the olives’ ripenning. They practically coincide with the autumn months.
This elapsed time between the green olive changes color and becomes what we would call “mature fruit” is what is called “veraison.”
Veraison can come sooner or later and will often depend on factors that the human being cannot handle, such as, above all, the weather. It will depend on the amount of rain fallen, the amount of sun and the temperature.
There are other factors, such as the production area, the pruning of the olive trees or the distribution of the trees in the field and more specifically, the fact that the olive trees are fed by artificial irrigation or not.
The veraison is more important than people may think. It is a time when many things are happening in the fruit. It is not only a color change problem, but something is changing within it.
During those days, the olive is acquiring its organoleptic characteristics.At that time, factors as important as the fruity index, flavours, itchiness, bitterness, etc, that define the identity of a product that will last for a whole year, are defined.
All of these parameters are well known to all of us and relatively easy to talk about. Everyone knows if they are more or less attracted to strong or soft olive oils, or prefer shades of grass, tomato, artichoke or green almond.
But there is a parameter of the highest importance in the olive oil sector and is not as well known as the previous ones. This is the “polyphenols”.Polyphenols are chemical substances that are found in foods of plant origin. Although they do not affect the flavor of the oil, their power is that they are a powerful antioxidant of natural origin. As we all know, antioxidant foods fight to protect our body against free radicals, which are the cause of cell aging.
of these polyphenols (there are many, around 8,000 different ones), is very abundant in olive oil. It is called “oleocantal”. This “individual” that many of you have never heard of before, is a true king. Antioxidant properties are attributed to it, of course, but it also has anti-inflammatory properties as well as the ability to prevent thrombus formation.
From some areas, there are those who point out that the polyphenols contained in plant products have the ability to prevent the formation of fat in the human body, as well as its anti-cancer properties. It seems that polyphenols, those great unknown, have powers of which we must be very aware.
regardless of their ability to fight to protect our body, polyphenols have a particularity regarding the characteristics of extra virgin olive oil. We are mainly talking about the bitterness and itchiness of the extra virgin olive oil. An extra virgin olive oil with amount of polyphenols will be an olive oil with a higher index of itchiness and bitterness, and logically, the same happens in reverse.
The highest polyphenol index appears in the olive just when it reaches the exact ripening point. But make no mistake, the exact point of ripening is not when the fruit is fully ripe, but refers to the moment when ripening is at its optimum point, as we said at the beginning, in the ripening period.
As it could not be otherwise, there is enough technology to carry out the necessary analyzes that report the precise parameters of the ripeness level of the olives, but despite this, even today, we would be surprised to know that one of the most widely used is let the human eye decide if the olives have the correct color to be picked.
This more “artisanal” method carries some risks. There are olive varieties, such as arbequina, which, depending on the plantation system used, may be evolving inside and do not show their ripening index on the skin. We mean that it does not always show the right color for its evolution. Hence, using the techniques we have available will help us confirm or not our perception of the olive state.
Veraison is a capricious stage par excellence. Each geographical area and each variety of olives have their own veraison. In some areas it starts early, at the beginning of September, while in others it can take until well into October or even until November.
Each variety of olive has its own veraison. There are varieties such as Chamomile, which are early risers, and begin to age very soon, while others, such as Cornicabra, very characteristic of the Toledo area, which is more praying and begins its process significantly later than the rest. At the same time, time used for their metamorphosis is different. In this sense, once again we can point to the Arbequina olive as one of the varieties that undergo this process in less time. In just a few days, it was able to go from being a green fruit to a fully ripe one.
In the same way, each olive behaves differently. There are olives that begin to change their color from top to bottom while others do the opposite.
Regarding the olive yield in its veraison phase, that is, the amount of oil that it will provide us once it is pressed, there are also different theories. Most generally, it leads us to think that at the optimal moment of ripening, the olive has the ability to offer us as much oil as possible, although others maintain that after reaching the optimum point of aging, it is still necessary to leave the olive for a few days. More maturation to achieve higher yield.
Be that as it may, extra virgin olive oil consumption, whatever its variety or origin, is always a guarantee of consuming a quality product that will also guarantee our health.