Verdear – the picking of green Olives

Verdear or ‘greening’ is the picking of green olives for eating. The verdear usually happens in October but this year has been unusual. Many crops have been early, as is the case with the olives, which are ready now, some two or three weeks before time.

On the same tree will often be found the two different types of olive. The ‘manzanilla’ olive which has the shape of a little apple, round and plump, and the slightly elongated olive which is left on the tree to become black and is picked in late November or December and is used to make oil. Some trees have just one type of olive but grafting can give double cropping.

So now the verdear begins, clambering up a ladder to reach as many olives as possible. Standing on branches, stretching out and up, the olives seem to dance out of reach just when you think you have them in your grasp. The sun blazing down . . . hot and thirsty work, also very dirty as the trees seem to collect dust. The olives cannot be bashed down with a large stick like they can later in the years as they will bruise.

Olives that have small marks are okay for preserving, as the mark can be cut away, but deep marks are no good as it usually extends into the flesh of the olive and once cut away leaves very little left to eat.

Once collected, the olives with bad marks are discarded and the rest washed. Next job is to slice around the olive to allow the flesh to be cured. There are some wooden lap crushers that do the job of opening up the olive, but it leaves the olive looking battered with a gaping wound . . . not nice to look at when eating.

A washing up bowl full of olives will make about eleven or twelve good sized jars. I put the jars into the oven for 15 minutes at 200°C and boil the jar lids on the stove for the same time before filling.

I put 3 table spoons of salt into 1 litre of water, the salt water is thus the main medium for curing and this is not a too salty mixture, you can experiment here and maybe use less salt. It will take about 4 litres of this preparation to deal with our washing up bowl full. Now we start to bottle the olives. Some methods have you soaking the olives pressed down under water and changing the water until the water is clear, but this often leads to the olives going mouldy.

Into each jar put olives so that the jar is half full, then use some small pieces of lemon, two crushed garlics, a sprig of rosemary, a torn bay leaf, some torn basil leaves and a sprinkling of dried chilli. Pour the salty water over then fill the jar full of olives with more pieces of lemon, garlic, rosemary, bay leaf, basil and dried chill. Fill the jar to the brim putting a final layer of olives on the top. Seal and store in a dark place for at least 3 months.

This recipe can vary, red peppers can by used or fresh chillies or oregano. Any number of herbs can be used.
The salt water cures the olives by way of the cut made and the added ingredients give flavours. When the jar is opened it often foams out as fermentation has taken place. Rinse the preserved olives off several times and discard any olives that have discoloured. Pour over good quality olive oil before serving.