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In the Mediterranean region, olives can be harvested from October to as late as February.
If olives are harvested early (October through mid-November), they generally yield less oil, compared to late harvest. Olive harvesting time will influence organoleptic characteristics, shelf life, and colour of olive oil.
Early harvest olive oils
Unripe olives are picked right from the trees to make early harvest olive oils. The chlorophyll content is high, so the early harvest olive oils are often quite green.
Early harvest olive oils are definitely worth the money as they have higher levels of antioxidants and have extra-low acidity.
Compared to late harvest, early harvest olive oils are more bitter, pungent, and grassy with unripe and vegetal characteristics. One of the reasons why they are more expensive is that unripe olives produce way less oil than ripe ones.
Late harvest olive oils
When the olive matures, the skin turns purple to black, and some olive producers pick up olives then. Waiting for more extended time means that olive will give more olive oil.
Late harvest olive oils tend to be more golden in colour as the chlorophyll content declines. At this stage, the polyphenol levels decline. Compared to early harvest these oils are less bitter, more floral, less pungent, and have a shorter shelf life.