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Harvest Under Way, Oil Flowing at Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard

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Saturday morning at Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard, south of San Antonio near Elmendorf, marked the first day of pressing the 2010 olive harvest.

About 500 pounds of olives were poured through a metal grid into the hopper (at right) as processing began in the barn at the orchard.

This is just the second year that the Italian olive press was put to work. As the green oil finally started flowing, at about 10:30 a.m., workers clapped and cheered, took photos and grabbed spoons for quick samples of brand new olive oil.

“It tastes amazing,” said Saundra Winokur, Sandy Oaks owner. The fresh-tasting new oil, smooth in flavor and bright green in color, flows from the nozzle of the mill into clean glass gallon jars (below right).

The jars are taken immediately to a cool room where the jar tops will go on and paper bags will cover each jar. The oil needs to settle in the cool, dark environment for awhile before bottling begins.

Most of the first olives picked this week were green.  As the harvesting continues early this coming week, pickers will be bringing in the rosy-colored olives. Finally, the ripe black olives will make it to the barn floor to cool on tarps, be separated from the leaves and then put into the mill.

“That way we can adjust the blend the way we want it for the oil,” said Winokur. Sandy Oaks will sell “limited edition” bottles of the new oil, or oglio nuovo, and put the rest into the blend for the regular bottles. Sandy Oaks also sells the dried olive leaves for tea.

Sandy Oaks’ orchard has more than 11,000 trees of many varieties, including arbequina, mission, manzanilla, arbosana, picual, frantoio, leccino and koroneiki. Visit the website for more information, as well as directions to the orchard and tree nursery, visiting and tour hours.

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