Can You Eat Olives raw? A Complete Guide and FAQ

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Olives are delicious and nutritious fruit that you can eat in so many ways. They are famous for Mediterranean cuisines. We lack the time or even knowledge on how to process and cook them sometimes. So, the question is, can you eat olives raw?

Raw olives are very edible and cannot affect your health. But before consuming them, there are some essential things you should know. Keep reading to understand whether you can eat olives raw and much more.

Really, Can you eat olives raw?

Raw olives are the unprocessed olive fruits picked straight from the tree. Raw olives have a green and black color and a firm texture that is not mushy like processed olives. The fruits are pretty edible, only that they contain a bitter substance referred to as oleuropein.

Taking a bite into raw olives is not a good idea. The fruit is bitter, and you will probably cough and spit it out in the first bite. Worst still is that the bitterness lingers in the mouth for long, which is quite disgusting and could even lead to digestive issues.

There are no other health risks associated with consuming raw olives, but it is best to avoid picking that raw olive from the tree straight into your mouth. Olive farmers have, however, mastered the art of distinguishing the more edible fruits with lesser oleuropein.

You can get rid of the bitterness by bringing the olives in salty water. Once cured, you can consume your olives immediately.

Can you eat olive pits?

Olive pits are the hard surface that covers the olive seed and lie under the olive flesh. If you are wondering whether to eat the pit, understand that they aren’t poisonous. They are, however, not something you should be eating. Why? First, because, if eaten carelessly, you probably will end up with a broken tooth or two.

How to make olives edible

Eating raw olives is problematic because of their bitterness. You wouldn’t enjoy something so bitter, anyway. Olive farming dates back from the ancient days, and as years flew by, people discovered ways of getting rid of that bitterness. So here are some ways to make those olives edible.

Cure in water

Soaking the olives in water eliminates oleuropein from the fruit through osmosis. Water alone is enough to reduce the compound in green olives. It’s hard to remove the bitterness in water if your olives are ripe.

  • Get fresh green olives and inspect them. Toss aside the unbruised ones, then clean the rest.
  • Break /slit the olives into two with a rolling pin or a knife to allow the water in.
  • Add the olives to a container.
  • Cover the olive fruits in water. Ensure that you completely submerge all the fruits into the water.
  • Keep changing the water every day to prevent bacterial growth on the olives. To do that, pour the olives onto a colander and wash the container they were in, then pour in the olives and fill the container with cold water.
  • Keep repeating this routine for up to 7 days while still tasting the bitterness in them. If the bitterness is less, then you can start consuming the olives. If not, then give them some extra days’ soak.

Brining

Brine solution made from salt eliminates oleuropein. The brining process can take up some time, so it needs some patience.

  • Select the olives to brine.
  • Cut them vertically with a knife, careful enough not to reach the pit.
  • Add the olives in glass jars and leave some space at the top.
  • Mix some pickling salt and water, then pour the mix into the jars.
  • Close the jars and store them in a cool and dark place. The brining will have started by the end of the first week, and you can drain them from the solution.
  • Without changing the jars, add a fresh but more potent brine solution into the jar and cover the olive in it.
  • Store away the jars for up to 2 months, depending on how bitter you want the olives to be.

Lye curing

Lye is a wood byproduct. It has a high PH that wears down the oleuropein. When using this method, safety is essential as lye could burn your skin. So ensure you have protective chemical-resistant gloves.

  • Take the olives and remove the bruised ones. Ensure you take larger-sized olives.
  • Use a lye-resistant container and add the olives into it.
  • Make the lye solution and allow it to cool to 210C.
  • Add the solution to the olives and cover them completely.
  • Keep stirring the mixture for the first 8 hours, so the lye reaches the pit. Take one olive and cut it to check whether the lye has reached the pit.
  • If you cut into the olive quickly and have greenish-yellow flesh, they are ready for consumption. If they are still pale, then repeat the process.

What to do with fresh olives

After harvesting fresh olives, cure them to neutralize the bitterness. You can use either of the methods discussed above to reduce the oleuropein compound. Once they are cured and well preserved, you can use them in different ways like:

Pasta

Add in some olives into tomato pasta, then sprinkle with some chopped basil.

Salad

Make a salad with baby salad leaves and some dressing. Add some olives and tomatoes and serve with some bread.

Chicken

Olives make a great marinade. Slice the olives, add vinegar, olive oil, and seasonings, coat the chicken, and leave it for 15 minutes. Next is roasting the chicken and serving it with some lemons once ready.

Dipping

Make a savory dip with chopped olives and some garlic. Blend and add olive oil to smoothen the dip and some lemon juice to add in some flavor.

Mayonnaise

Add some olives to your mayonnaise, then splash in some lemon juice and mix well. Use the dip in your ham, sandwich, or raw vegetables.

How to make olives less bitter

The oleuropein makes olives bitter, but it can be gotten rid of by soaking the olive in water, brining or lye curing. Other ways you could reduce bitterness include:

Dry curing

After you harvest your olives, place them in drums, then pour a layer of salt over them. Roll the drums frequently to promote dehydration. After that, rinse the olives, then coat them with olive oil.

Air curing

Exposing olives to the sun or in hot temperatures can reduce bitterness. However, this method is very rare and particular to certain varieties of olives; Nyon and Thassos.

How do you process olives?

The common processing methods include brine, dry curing, water, and lye treatment. The steps to follow are pretty straightforward, as stated above. After processing, the oleuropein dissolves into the solutions and reduces in the flesh of the olive.

Raw olives for curing

Cure raw olives before eating to bring out their sweetness. The different olives may have different profiles depending on the region they are cultivated. The different geographical locations do not mean that you can skip curing them. No! no matter the area, they should undergo curing first.

The different varieties have a curing method that brings out their best flavors. Below are some different olive type and their best cures.

  • It would be best if you cured the unripe and almost ripe olives in water to bring that tart flavor in them.
  • The fully ripened olives should be brined (natural); the method gives a sweet and intense flavor. Dry curing also does them good, and you end up with a sweet wrinkled, and soft fruit.
  • Cure the green and black olives with lye. The method gives a mild flavor compared to when cured with water or brine.

What to observe before curing olives

  • Check that the olives have no moth and caterpillar bites before curing them.
  • Always clean the olives before curing.
  • You can separate the olives according to their sizes before curing them.

How are olives cured?

Curing olives involves converting the fruits’ natural sugars into lactic acid to eliminate phenols and oleuropein compounds. There are several methods of curing olives. It can be water, in a brine solution (salt, water, and vinegar), lye treated, air-cured, or dry-cured. The results are tart or sweet-tasting olives, depending on the method and variety of olives used.

Frequently asked questions

1. Is eating raw olives good?

Eating raw, uncured olives is not fun, but either way, olives are rich in powerful antioxidants. These antioxidants help protect your heart’s health and may fight certain types of cancer.

2. Can raw olives make olive oil?

Yes! Olive oil is produced by pressing oils from raw olive fruits. Use the oil in cooking, salad dressing, and frying different foods.

3. Is there a way I can store olives without the brine?

Yes!

Refrigerate the olives in a cocktail or martini. You probably have walked into supermarkets and found pimento olives selling in the pickle section in jars.

Conclusion

Can you eat olives raw? Absolutely! Raw olives are not poisonous, only that you probably will end up throwing it away after the first bite due to the bitterness.  And instead of having to deal with that bitterness, it’s better first to cure the olives to make them more eatable.

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