Can You Eat Raw Olives?

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If you’ve ever tried to eat a raw olive, I’m sure you’ve experienced an extremely bitter taste. Does that bitter taste mean that you can’t eat raw olives? Let’s find out.

Key Takeaways:

  • You can eat raw olives, but I don’t suggest doing that because they won’t taste delicious.
  • Raw olives are extremely bitter, which is repulsive for most people.
  • Brined olives are the most common type of olives people consume.

Can You Eat Raw Olives? Are They Toxic?

guy eating raw olives, illustration

Raw olives are not toxic and thus can be eaten safely without any health concerns. However, all raw olives have an extremely bitter taste, which is why I never recommend eating raw olives.

Some olives have the enzyme catechol oxidase that changes their color from green to red-brown or black, which causes people to be suspicious. But, it’s important to say that the green olives are unripened olive fruit that is harvested early and black olives are fully ripened and harvested when they turn dark.

Raw olives are intensively bitter because they contain oleuropein. Despite the extreme bitterness, oleuropein has potential health benefits.

Both raw and processed olives are a very good source of monounsaturated fatty acids and a good source of vitamin E. They contain 75% of the fat in oleic acid, which lowers cholesterol levels. Green olives have a lot more oleuropein than black olives. Because of that, they taste more bitter than black olives.

In comparison with processed olives, raw olives have a completely different texture. They are more mealy and mushy than processed ones.

What Do Raw Olives Taste Like?

tasting raw olives

The taste of raw olives can vary depending on the variety of olives and their ripeness, but here are some common characteristics:

  • Bitterness: Raw olives are typically bitter due to the presence of compounds like oleuropein. This bitterness can vary in intensity and may need to be reduced through curing or processing.
  • Astringency: Raw olives can have a puckering or drying sensation in the mouth, similar to the feeling of over-steeped tea. This astringency is also related to the presence of certain compounds.
  • Nutty or Earthy: Some varieties of raw olives may have nutty or earthy undertones in their flavor profile, although this can be subtle.
  • Mild Salinity: Raw olives may have a mild natural salinity, which can vary depending on the olives’ growing conditions.
  • Firm Texture: Raw olives are typically firm and not as tender as ripe olives. The texture can be somewhat mealy or crisp.

If you have ever wondered if you can make raw, bitter olives edible in your own home, there is good news: you can process them yourself.

To be processed, olives must be cured for preservation. Mostly, people use these four methods:

  • Oil curing: soaking olives in oil for several months
  • Water curing: rinsing and re-soaking in water over many months
  • Brine-curing: soaking in brine for up to 6 months
  • Dry curing: storing in salt for up to 6 months

The easiest way is to put them into salt water.

The historical theory is that many years ago, some olives fell from a tree to the ground near the sea, where the salt sea water broke on them. A couple of months later, someone found these olives and tasted them. They were delicious! From that moment, the world discovered salt-cured olives.

On the other hand, it’s not good to eat cured olives directly from a jar right after the brining process because they can be too salty. Some people like to desalt olives before consuming them.

Best Ways To Consume Olives

olives in a brine

Olives are known as delicious and nutritious fruits that can be consumed in many ways. They are one of the oldest ingredients originating from Creta. Olive oil and olives are prevalent in Mediterranean cuisine.

If you want to prepare raw, unprocessed olives from the tree, the first thing you should do is to make the bitterness go away.

You can put olives in a bowl or a pot and pour a mixture of salt and water over them. Combine 1 part salt to 10 parts water and let it stay for a week, then repeat the process until it tastes good. In case you want to prepare raw olives, you can eat them as an appetizer.

On the other hand, if you are preparing a meal with brined olives or just putting them into a salad, it is important to know the differences in taste between green and black olives. Black olives have a mellow and juicier taste with a floral note.

These are the best ways to consume black olives:

  • Put them into pasta, chop them in salads, and make Mexican pizzas, stews, and charcuterie boards.

On the contrary, green olives taste more bitter than black olives. They have a leaf note. Usually,  green olives are converted to olive oil and used for making different kinds of salads or meals.

These are the best ways to consume green olives:

  • Put olives on top of the pizza, chop them into sandwiches like a quick snack, or eat them in tuna salad.

If you want to prepare marinated olives, put them in olive oil and add lemon juice, coriander, and cumin seeds.

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