Can You Eat Raw Olives? Explained

raw olives in the rain

From tree to table, it’s a long journey for olives to take before they get to the customer. If you go to the store to buy olives, you will find several types of olives to choose from. All of them are processed olives. We always eat processed olives, but raw olives we don’t consume. Why is that so? Are raw olives safe to eat?

Yes, you can eat raw olives, but they probably won’t taste delicious.  Raw olives taste extremely bitter, which is repulsive for most people.

Undoubtedly, it’s better to consume olives in brine than raw olives. Raw olives are unprocessed olives that are picked straight from the tree.

In this article, we will discuss the properties of raw olives and their possibility for consumption.

Can You Eat Raw Olives? Are They Toxic?

Imagine yourself drinking a martini on vacation, and you want to eat the olive that comes with the drink, but it’s raw. The result will be a bitter taste in your mouth that you can’t get rid of easily. It wouldn’t be a very nice experience, but as it was written before, you can eat raw olives without fear for your health.

Raw olives are not toxic. In the past, people thought that raw olives were poisonous. That opinion was based on the fact that they have a bitter taste. That was a completely incorrect belief. Another essential point for that belief is the color of the olive fruit.

Some olives have the enzyme catechol oxidase that changes their color from green to red-brown or black, which caused 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?

Originally, olives tasted extremely bitter. That’s why they need to be processed and consumed in brine, not raw. Raw olives taste much more bitter than processed olives. Raw olives taste a lot bitterer than processed ones because they contain a high concentration of oleuropein, a type of phenolic bitter compound.

 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 by 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 world discovered salt-cured olives.

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

Best Ways To Consume Olives

Olives are known as delicious and nutritious fruit 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 they taste good. In case you want to prepare raw olives, you can eat them as an appetizer.

On the other side, if you are preparing a meal with brined olives or just putting them into a salad, it is important to know the differences in tasting 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 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.

Liqueur from black olives is prepared on the island of Brač. For this recipe, you will need ripe black olives, sugar, lemon, orange and grapefruit zest, and a clove. Firstly, you should mix all the ingredients. After that, the vessel in which it’s prepared you should leave to stand for 40 days, then it is filtered and left to mature for 6 months.

Wrap Up

Olive is one of the most important agricultural products in Mediterranean countries. Raw olives are not in use for human consumption, but processed olives are. To summarize, raw olives are unprocessed olives that come directly from the tree. Raw olives are not toxic, but they are extremely bitter and not edible. The reason for it is the containment of oleuropein, a type of bitter compound. In case you get the opportunity to try raw olive, it’s better not to do it because of the taste.

On the contrary, processed olives in jars and brine are always a better choice when you want to use them for eating. It depends on your taste and how you will prepare them, on pizza, salad or just a martini.