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Sunday, 14 January 2007

Picking Olives in Andalucia

Wood smoke drifted across the El Buho olive grove in the hills above Monda off the Costa del Sol this morning as we arrived. Our fellow workers were already hard at work. Teresa Lluansi, owner of the finca pointed us to our first olive tree and we set to work.

Spreading green netting round the base of the tree to catch the falling olives we beat the olive tree branches with staves as the ripe olives plopped onto the ground. Higher up the slope we could hear the rhythmic swish of sticks as our workmates invisible amongst the 250 year old trees alternately shook and beat the branches dripping with olives. Our eyes sharpened to distinguish the black fruit amongst the foliage and our fingers grew defter as we plucked the olives dropping them into our baskets before filling hessian sacks with the precious harvest. Incredibly in mid January high above the Costa del Sol in southern Andalucía the temperature was superb and we were soon in shirtsleeves as we systematically stripped our trees.

The fragrance of coffee prepared on a wood fire burning olive wood cuttings drew us together to compare notes on the colour of the olives picked from the trees and gathered from the ground. All of us appreciated the magic of the olive, and the golden liquid that it would yield and which would flow from the fruit that we held in our hands. We were all devotees of pan Catalán, two halves of a toasted whole meal roll with a smear of fresh tomato juice on each half and our precious olive oil dripped onto the warm bread.

Climbing the trees to hand pick the highest olives was an exhilarating experience. Looking out from between the tree tops over the rolling Sierra de las Nieves mountains towards the white villages of Tolox and Yunquera the olives fell steadily away from the branches into the basket pulled high into the tree. Lunch followed all too soon, delicious fresh salad with avocado and mustard dressing and olive oil of course with rice and barbecued chicken all cooked over the bed of coals. Home made apple pie with coffee to round off. Food is a vital part of any day in the country in Andalucía and we followed tradition to the letter.

Now slightly stiff after our open air lunch we loaded up the 10 sacks of olives we had picked and set off for the co-operative olive mill below us in Monda. The conveyor belts were silent, a roller bearing had broken and even as we waited a stream of pick ups, family cars and trucks arrived at the end of the day, all bearing their precious cargo to be pressed into the olive oil that has made Andalucía famous as an olive producing area. Our harvest this year would be pressed along with the other sacks brought in today. Five different varieties of olive go into the making of the cold pressed virgin olive oil from the Mudéjar mill in Monda giving the oil a slightly sweeter and highly palatable taste compared to the more acidic olive oils from the Cordoba and Jaen grove to the north of the Málaga province.

If you would like to join Teresa for the full experience of picking olives on her finca one weekend during the olive picking season between October and January of each year, write in to gomarbella using the comment form below the blog. See you there!


Anonymous said...

My name is Anna Nicholas, I am from Australia. My friend and I are in spain for one more month and would love to do some fruit picking in return for accomodation perhaps? Could you please advise if you know of any other farms located south of Spain, as I believe we are too early for the olive picking season. My email address is
Look forward to your reply,
regards. Anna

Mike Drury said...

Message below is from Teresa who runs the El Buho olive farm near Monda:

"I do not know what to suggest as now it's a very dry period and the picking of olives will not start until late November.

There are different farms where they organize weekends workshops around Monda and Coin.

One is called "El Nazareno". The person to be contacted is: Lola Gutierrez (Instalaciones Rurales - Usos Alternativos) Tel. 00 (34) 952 47 56 16 Mob: 00 (34) 616 04 51 59

But thank you very much it is nice to see how far the information on a blog can go ...


Mike Drury said...

I wrote to Anna:

"Hi Anna, This is what Teresa sent me today. I am afraid there is not much on the go on the agricultural front at the moment and you really need to be here at the peak of the harvest time of whatever particular fruit is being picked.

Is the agricultural area where you really want to be or are you looking for work in general?

This is the local English newspaper which has a jobs section You might find it useful.

Best wishes Mike"

Anna wrote back: "Hi Mike, thanks a lot for your help! We're flying back to spend two weeks in Barcelona on Monday. We were just interested in doing something constructive with our time in Spain. Maybe we'll try for next year.

My friend Julia and I both loved Marbella, it's a beautiful place!

Hopefully I can return to Europe some time next year,

Many thanks, Anna.

Anonymous said...


Would it be possible to get Teresa Lluansi´s contact for applying for work for the olive picking season?
My email is



Mike Drury said...

Hi Olaf

I'll pass on your email address to Teresa right now for her to write to you. I am afraid that her finca El Buho near Monda is not big enough to provide paid work so she relies on friends and relatives to do the picking of the olives in the olive season around November and December.

Your reward would be a fantastic Andalusian experience in the mountains, good food and very interesting people to pick olives with. If you are in Marbella around that time I am sure you would be very welcome to help.

I do it every year and I wouldn't miss it! I hope that helps you Olaf.

Best wishes from Marbella Olaf and I look forward to being up a tree with you (or under it...)


Anonymous said...

Hi Mike,

Thanks for that info, will wait for Teresa´s email as I go southwards today from Banyoles.
I live in my van and travel around, looking for a bit of warmth now as the mountains are now getting to cold for sleeping in the van.
I´m always in for giving a hand to small holders, as my plan is to become one in a few years, just checking out wher i will lay my hat at the moment.
Good time to build up my karma ;-) and see how small holders survive.
They are also usually real people and are also very interesting.

I will also be looking for some payed work, as I´m now starting to nibble on my savings and I want to keep that to a bare minimum, to make sure that my continuity of travel isn´t put in joepardy.
Good for me I do not spend to much, but my trusty 31 year old van´s thurst is the most expensive cost i have a t the moment.

That said, It would be interesting to pick olive there and with you! ;-)

Take care!


Anonymous said...

hi, my name is ryan and my girlfriend and I will be traveling through spain, end of june. We were thinking about fruit picking our way through for a few months before going to france for the grape harvest. I was wondering if you had any suggestions as were the best places to work would be and what type of fruit picking is available around that time of the year. We will be coming across on the ferry from morocco.

My email address is, i would to here from anyone who could give us some info.

thanks so much


ryan said...

hi my name is ryan and my girlfriend and i will be in spain around the end of june traveling through it for a few months, and we were wondering if anyone had any info on fruit picking jobs available.

we will be coming across on the ferry from morocco so we will be in the south to start. Any info would be really.

my email address is

thank you


Lukas said...


me and my boyfriend are looking for any paid picking job like olives or oranges, ...
We are now travelling around Malaga and we are running low of money :-) like always. Do you know about someone who we could contact.

Thank you very much
Kristyna and Lukas

Mike Drury said...

Hi Kristyna and Lukas

Thank you for writing in to Gomarbella. I am really sorry that I can't make any positive suggestions about working in the Malaga province. Things are really quiet jobwise at the moment, especially in Andalucia. I have just had a look at the online Situations Vacant column in the English speaking newspaper Sur:

There are very few jobs on offer. You might try putting an advertisement in the Situations Wanted column.

Try also

The olive picking mentioned in this blog is not a paid job. A lot of small olive growers use friends or family to pick the annual harvest as it is not profitable to employ outside workers.

Good luck with your travelsto both of you and I hope you find some paid work soon.

Best wishes Mike

jon said...

Hello! Although my profession revolves around coffee, picking olives in Spain has been at the top of my list of things to do in life before it's too late.. well, in a few weeks, I'll have the rare chance of being in Barcelona and would love to help with the olive harvest! I would gladly work for free and would not require food or housing for payment, but wouldn't pass up the offer if it's made. I'm really looking to learn as much as I can about the olive industry within a very short period of time. I'd like to spend a few days, Nov. 27th to Nov.30th of 2011 picking olives. I think the season has started? if not with you, if you have any suggestions, I'm free labor! I might eat a few, but otherwise I won't ask for anything in return. cheers,
jon ferguson

Mike Drury said...

Hello Jon, thanks very much for writing in. I'll pass on your message to Teresa to see how she is fixed for help with this year's harvest. Best wishes and thanks Mike