This frequently asked question is often answered with another question....what do you want to do with your olives?
Eat or Oil?
The rule is the eating olives (table olives) are picked first, while the flesh is still strong so that it will not soften during the natural fermentation, which lasts up to 8 months.
Oil olives are picked later, so that the oil has maximum time to accumulate in the olive prior to pressing.
The next question: where are you?
Northland start picking in March, Otago in June, and anywhere in between is in between!
Ripeness determines the time to pick, a rule of thumb is:
Table: green olives are picked before any colour change starts to happen, black olives are picked when they are black. (unless they are coloured in process, then they are picked green and, well, coloured with iron oxides), We don't colour olives at Telegraph Hill.
Oil: when the tree has 1/3 green, 1/3 coloured and 1/3 black olives. This will give a good flavour to the oil.