Can You Eat Raw Olives Off the Tree Directly?

Written by Ivy

Jan 30 2023

Can You Eat Raw Olives Off the Tree Directly?

You might be wondering, "Can I eat olives right off the tree?" if you grow your own olives. After all, there aren't many things a gardener enjoys more than eating their own produce straight from the plant.

Although it is legal to eat olives straight off the tree, they are so bitter that they are unpalatable. Before being consumed, olives typically go through a curing process.

Continue reading to find out why you shouldn't eat olives straight off the tree and how to prepare them for consumption.

Why Shouldn't I Eat Olives Off the Tree?


First of all, freshly picked olives are incredibly bitter. This bitterness is produced by a substance found in olives called glucosides. And oleuropein, a very bitter compound found in olive glucosides, is also known. So it won't be enjoyable to bite into a fresh olive.

However, it is possible to get rid of this substance. Because of this, most olives you buy at the store aren't overly bitter.

Additionally, cured olives have a different texture from olives that are still on the tree. Fresh olives are much less softer and much more crunch. You won't like eating a fresh olive if you like the soft crunch of a ripe one.

And lastly, pits are still present in fresh olives. It is not edible and serves to guard the olive seed. The pit has been taken out of a lot of the olives you buy in the store. Even so, a lot of olives are sold whole and pitted, which is my personal preference as I believe it preserves the flavor.

Although you can easily remove the pit from a fresh olive by yourself, you still need to be aware of that, and buying pitted olives is simpler.

So those are the justifications for not eating olives straight off the tree. What gives, then, that store-bought olives are so tasty? Where did they come from that way? I'll tell you!

Methods of Curing Olives

The majority of olives you'll find in stores have been through a process called curing, which softens the olive and helps take away its bitterness. Different cures yield various outcomes. I'll go over a few of the methods used to cure olives most frequently.

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Curing Olives in Brine

Many commercial olives are cured in this manner, which is the most typical method. Olives are picked and put into a brine solution within 24 hours of harvesting.

Simply put, the desired salinity of this brine is achieved by combining sea salt and water. Depending on the salinity and the procedure used, black and purple olives are typically kept in this solution for three to twelve months. To stop the growth of bacteria or mold, the solution is changed frequently.

By enhancing their sweetness and softening their texture, this technique preserves the olives' original flavors. To make the olives less bitter, the brine draws out the oleuropein. The brine may occasionally be supplemented with additional flavors to give the olives a different taste.

This does sound a lot like pickling, and it is! Olives are cured similarly to how many vegetables are pickled.


Curing Olives With Lye and Brine

This is merely a slightly modified brine cure. The olives are first washed with lye before being placed in a brine solution.

Chemicals like lye can extract oleuropein much more quickly than brine alone can. The compounds have plenty of time to be removed during the 8–12 hours that olives are washed in lye.

The olives are then washed at least three times to get rid of any lye residue. Following that, they are put in a brine solution to ferment. The olives only need to soak for 1 to 3 months using this method, though.

This is undoubtedly a quicker procedure. When olives are cured in this way as opposed to just brining them, they frequently taste sweeter.

Curing Olives in Water

Even though it's less common, this is a simpler method of curing olives. To ensure that the water can reach the entire olive, the olives must first be scored.

Following that, the olives are submerged in fresh water every day to soak. At least four weeks are needed for this process, though it occasionally takes longer. More water must be replaced than in a brine solution.

Water-cured olives have a milder flavor. As a result, other flavors of water are frequently added to the water for them. Finally, they are preserved in brine, just like the majority of olives.

Dry Curing Olives

The final method that is frequently used to cure olives is dry curing, which uses neither water nor brine at all. In the Southern Mediterranean, where olives are widely grown, this technique is extremely popular.

Olives are arranged in drums using this technique, sandwiched between salty layers. For three weeks or more, the olives are kept in these containers. To make sure the olives are evenly covered, they are turned at least once per week.

Compared to a water or brine method, the salt method extracts the oleuropeins from the olives much more quickly. Because there isn't any water to dilute the salt, the olives are also affected in other ways.

Instead of the smooth skin of other cured olives, the texture of salt-cured olives is more akin to raisins. They have a mildly more salty and bitter flavor, but a good one.


How to Cure Your Own Olives

You might be wondering if you can cure your own olives at home now that you know how they are cured. Since you don't want to consume your produce straight from the tree, curing your own olives is a fantastic way to enjoy it.

Use of either water or a brine solution is the most popular and effective method for home olive curing.

Harvest the olives you want to use first. The darkest olives are the most mature and least bitter, so choosing them is a good idea.

Wash and score your olives before putting them in water to cure. Then, make sure they are all submerged by placing them in a container filled with cold water. This water must be changed daily to avoid the growth of bacteria or mold.

Take a bite of an olive after four weeks of doing this. Great if you enjoy the flavor. If they do, you're done; if not, keep them going and check every week until you find a flavor you like.

If you decide to brine-cure your olives, start by preparing a basic brine of 1 part salt to 10 parts water. Again, make sure that all of your olives are completely submerged in this solution.

After three to six weeks, taste the olives again to determine their quality. The brine solution must be changed every week.

Make a basic brine by combining 1 part salt, 2–3 parts vinegar, and 10 parts water. This will be used to store the vegetables.

When that happens, you'll have your own tasty olives that are edible and taste much better than olives straight from the tree!


Fresh olives are never available in supermarkets because they are unpalatable. They may appear to be fresh fruit because they are grown on trees, but they actually contain a bitter phenolic substance called oleuropein. The only people you'll ever witness eating raw olives are olive growers who have become desensitized through years of practice (and even they typically only sample the fully ripened black ones, which contain less oleuropein). An olive must either be packed in salt or lye to draw out the oleuropein, which is necessary to make it palatable.

Therefore, avoid making the novice error of eating a raw olive, despite how alluring it may seem hanging from that tree.