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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Morocco: The Olive Harvest Part II

A village olive press, called huilerie in French

Morocco: The Olive Harvest
The Pressing of the Olives

Part II
Another village press

Although large-scale industrial plants for the pressing of olives do exist in Morocco in Fès, Marrakech, and Meknès, the bulk of the pressing is done at small mills, called maasra(s), which dot the smaller towns and villages throughout the olive-growing regions. Some olives are saved for home use, but the bulk of the crop is made into oil, with the surplus sold in souks or by individuals along the road.

An ancient press from Volubilis, the extensive Roman ruins [over 40 hectares] near Meknes that date from the first century A.D.

Olives piled up outside a village press

It takes about five kilos of olives to produce 1 liter of oil.

Plastic receptacles for the newly pressed oil

Sourtines, baskets made of esparto grass--also called sourdins

Stacked sourtines for the second pressing under a simple screw press

At the maasra the olives are placed in a receptacle that houses the grindstone, which is turned by a donkey who walks round and round the press to crush the olives. The pulp is then placed in baskets, called scourtins, made of braided esparto grass. These are stacked and placed under the press where the olives are pressed yet again. The liquid from the olives flows into a trough that leads to a tank where it is left to settle. As it settles, the oil and water from the olives separate and the oil is then stored in earthenware jars—or even plastic jugs.

Nothing left to waste: The dregs of pulp and pits, called pomace, from the pressing, which are often dried and used for fuel in kilns to fire pottery

Next: The Olives Themselves
Part III

Interested in visiting Morocco?
Contact me at for information about the next tour scheduled for October 2009.

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