Picking and Pressing Olive Oil in Israel

One of my favorite times of year

Olive harvest season!

This is my third year participating in this most scenic and satisfying of pursuits. I think I am perfecting my whackity-whack technique! I’ve definitely upped my game since last year.

We picked 96kg over 2 days.

Then we hauled it over to the olive press at Latrun.

We poured our load into the mouth of the big machine. It clonked and bonked and roared as it washed and mashed the fruit and spun the pulp.

Then, from a spigot at the other end, emerged liquid gold.

Extra-virgin cold-pressed Beit Shemesh-country olive oil.

17 liters!

It smells like the irrepressible vigor of life – in a jerrycan. The leaves of the tree are like organic solar panels, concentrating the glare of the sun – which baked the Land of Israel all summer long – in the potent oily molecules of the fruit.

Ready to nourish, heal, delight and illuminate our family

With all that is simple and pure and wondrous and holy about

This World

Until next harvest

Im Yirtzei Hashem

The bottled oil. Actually I took this photo of our oil last year. This year’s oil is still in the jerrycan.

Olive Picking Q&A

What’s the deal with shemitta? Is olive picking allowed this year?

This fruit is considered from last year. Next year’s olives (2022) will be shmitta. Even so, we will be allowed to pick them. In fact, I will be allowed to pick the tree in your backyard, as it will be hefker! However the fruit will have kedusha and there will be some issues regarding the quantities I can pick and the method of picking.

I don’t own an olive grove. So where do I pick?

I also don’t own an olive grove, sadly for me! Fortunately, this is The Land of a Million Olive Trees! You can find olive trees which are not harvested in municipal landscapes, JNF forests, in private gardens and on agricultural land that is not tended by its owners. The fruit is usually hefker – but if in doubt, always ask. Posting a request on local and special interest groups will also often yield offers and leads of olive trees that go unpicked. Most people do not pick their olive trees!

How much does it cost to do this? Is it a good way to save money on olive oil?

The Latrun olive press charges 1 shekel/kg, with a minimum of 100kg. Since we brought 96kg, we paid 100 shekel. We got 17 liters. So I guess we paid… um (opens calculator app)… NIS 5.82/liter. Considering the hours invested and the cost of organic cold-pressed olive oil, we earned probably NIS 1.20/hr for hard physical labor. This is not a financial decision. I don’t believe that the value of the experience or the product can be measured in money. It’s absolutely one of my favorite annual events, and we enjoy the results for months to come BH.

This looks so amazing! Can I join?

We’re done for this year. But there are thousands of other olive trees in Eretz Yisrael for you to pick. The harvest season is just getting started! Anyone looking for a fun and easy olive picking and pressing experience, I heard that Alladin near Modiin is great (though I’ve never been there). Only attempt what we did if you’re excited about a few days of hard labor in the hot sun and no guaranteed outcome.

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My name is Naomi and this is my tiny little farm in the heart of the rapidly growing city of Beit Shemesh, Israel. I enjoy growing, making and processing as much of my families own food and household essentials as possible, while nurturing a biodiverse ecosystem filled with beauty and life. 

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11 Comments

  1. Saraleah Leschen on October 8, 2021 at 9:41 am

    Wow! This is amazing. Kol hakovod

  2. b on October 8, 2021 at 10:26 am

    so so cool did you have to pay to bring your olives to latrun?

    • Bloomah on October 8, 2021 at 10:30 am

      Yes. In the third question of the QndA above, I explain how the pricing works there.

  3. Yehudit Chana Yeinan on October 8, 2021 at 12:51 pm

    This is very beautiful and inspiring! I can’t wait to taste your oil and maybe make our own next year.
    Keep up the great work!

  4. EBG on October 9, 2021 at 6:36 pm

    Do you need the special rakes to knock down the olives out of the trees?

    • Bloomah on October 9, 2021 at 7:54 pm

      we used long wooden sticks to whack the branches and then the olives fell onto the big blanket we spread out below.
      the sticks were actually the rafters from our sukkah!

  5. Rebecca on October 9, 2021 at 9:11 pm

    I am so inspired by this post, I think many Americans may feel that they had to leave some rural living behind upon their Aliyah, but Naomi is showing that we can have some greenspace and earthy time even in eretz Yisrael, in which many of us dwell in cities. Kol hakavod!

  6. Rina Elbinger on October 10, 2021 at 11:51 am

    You all did a WONDERFUL job. So much hard work, but entirely satisfying it seems. Did you have to take maaser on the olives or do you wait and take it on the olive oil? Do you have to check the olives for bugs before you take them to the press?
    We’d like to join in next year if possible.

    • Bloomah on October 10, 2021 at 12:31 pm

      Usually olives will need to be maasered. We do it after the oil is made. The truma can be given to a bona-fide kohen. Our kohen uses it to light Shabbos candles (well, his wife does).
      Olives are not check for bugs before pressing into oil. Perhaps this would be different if they were clearly infested (ours weren’t)
      (Note: I am not a halachic expert and I have been known to make mistakes. So don’t rely on me implicitly for halachic guidance. Ask a shayla before doing any of this stuff)

  7. Deborah Denenfeld on October 11, 2021 at 4:38 am

    What a cool thing to do! I’ve been part of pressing apples for cider and lots of canning food but never making oil. Seems like such a great learning experience for the whole family, too.

  8. Yocheved on October 13, 2021 at 8:42 am

    Naomi, I’m really inspired from your determination to bring the good, old fashioned way of life, into our hectic urban world. It is so hard to live in this tractor drilling, horn honking, noisy city life and you are showing us how to bring the nature that we crave into it. I appreciate it and respect it. Thank you.

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