Early harvest olive oil is considered to be everything that is obtained from olives harvested at veraison, at the moment when the color changes from green to purple, even a little earlier.
There is no fixed date for the harvest of this early olive, since it depends on the area, the variety of the olive, and the weather conditions, although we can establish a time period roughly starting around the beginning/middle of October and ending around the middle of November.
Since on these dates, and in some areas, temperatures are still at an average level, special care and caution must be shown during the harvest in order not to damage the fruit or cause damage to the olive tree, and this work must be done during the hours of the day with lowest temperatures.
The yield of Best Early Harvest Olive Oil is inferior to that of traditional extra virgin olive oils. If regarding traditional virgin olive oil we have a yield of oil/olive weight ratio of between 20-25%, the fat yield in olive oil of early harvest is between 12-14% on average. This means that in the production of early harvest olive oil, more kilos of olives must be used than for extra virgin olive oil produced on more mature olives.
It should be noted that the concept "early harvest" is not regulated by any normative law, and therefore, no controls are carried out. It is a quality label created and assumed by the extra virgin olive oil producers themselves.
Features of early harvest olive oil
Early harvest olive oils are characterized by their bright green color (given their higher chlorophyll content) and by their herbaceous and fresh fruity aromas and flavors; more powerful and fruity than olive oils harvested from more mature olives, which, while still excellent, have slightly more attenuated and mature nuances. They generally tend to be stronger, spicier, and more bitter.
Moving towards early harvest Extra Virgin Olive Oils
A few years ago, the term "early harvest olive oil" didn't exist. Members of the cooperative cultivated their olives with the purpose of optimizing their weight and fat yield. The olive harvest began, according to Puente Genil's popular tradition, on December 8, after "la Virgen", the feast celebrating the immaculate conception.
However, small private oil mills, such as Las Valdesas, began to produce this type of oil.
Little by little, producers, even cooperatives, are joining the production of early harvest olive oils, reserving part of their harvests to be used to produce this type of oils, highly appreciated internationally and with an increasing number of national consumers. Thus, based on official data, we see a growth in the production of these oils in recent years in which we have gone from 5% of the total volume produced in 2010 to 20% in 2016.