How to Prepare Olives for Eating at the Table

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(Olea Europaea)

How to prepare table olives


Growing Olives in the UK

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Basic preparation for all table olives - from tree to table

(For 5 or 5 million, it's the same recipe)

  The following procedure is the basis for all olive preparation for table olives.
  There are many recipes which add to this basic olive preparation recipe, adding herbs, splitting the olives first, and so on, but this basic olive recipe is all you need to get started.

Basic recipe for preparing table olives


1. Pick the olives between October and December Do you prefer green or black olives?
They are from the same olive tree!
Olives turn from green to black when left on the tree for longer.

It is a personal choice when to pick your olives.

Cover and soak in fresh water for 10-14 days
Change the water daily until the olives are no longer bitter


Prepare brine (1 Litre of water + 100 gms of salt per 1Kilo of olives)
Soak for 2 days


Drain and soak in solution of 80% vinegar + 20% water
Soak for 2 days




Other recipes for table olives

  Nobody likes waiting when the new fresh olives are picked! It is a common practice to split the olives ready for the preparation process. This is done by carefully hitting the olives with a (wooden, not metal) hammer, being careful not to split down to the stone.  
  In addition to splitting, it is popular to add garlic and all kinds of herbs to the storing mix once the initial soaking step is out of the way.  
  While the above are common practices in the Mediterranean area, who knows what is best for UK grown olives?  
  Be creative, or start conservatively. Let us know how you get on, and we will share your results with everybody. My table olive preparation resultsMy table olive preparation results  

Storing olives


Once prepared, olives are traditionally stored in large terracotta jars in a cool dark place. The olives are covered in a solution of around 75% brine + 25% vinegar. A 1cm layer of olive oil is poured on the surface. This will keep the olives all year until the next harvest.



  • keep olives away from all metals - they cause oxidation and spoiling
  • keep olives stored in a cool dark place
  • olives can be picked from October through to February depending on the local conditions (eventually they will be black and wrinkled, but still usable)



Delicate grandeur - flowers appear in late spring

Adrian's Olive Tree - Edinburgh



Olives in Sussex


Harvest time
Picture taken in November

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The Olive tree symbolises the essence of the Mediterranean landscape. It is an elegant, evergreen tree which makes an excellent specimen plant for a sunny courtyard in a terracotta pot or planted in a Mediterranean style garden.

If you are bold enough, there is nothing quite like your own olive grove, under planted with lavender to stimulate the imagination.

Contact us for advice on ordering your olive trees. From beginner's to Biblical, we supply every size and shape of olive tree. Contact us for images of actual trees available.

See our large plant pots for olives, and other architectural plants.


Olive tree with olives
Still fruiting
Picture taken January 2009


UK Olive Growing Guide
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British olive tree survey

We supply olive trees all over the UK. They are commonly grown and are a favourite feature in our designs. They regularly produce small, ornamental fruit but they are not as good to eat as the Mediterranean grown ones we love so much.

Yet we have heard much 'on the grape vine' about people producing olives in the UK that they can eat. We know of a commercial venture growing olives in Devon.

There is no doubt that olive trees survive well in the UK. Even in Greece, Italy, Spain, etc. olives in the mountains have to cope with frost and snowy conditions in the winter.

So, edible olives grown in Britain? How far spread in our country is this phenomenon? Do you pick your olives? Even if you have produced just one that you ate (and liked) we would love to know.

We are producing a national picture of all olive fruit production in the UK, especially including gardens. Whatever the shape, size or number of your olives, use our form to let us know and we will publish our findings.


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Fill in the form with your olive tree - and your olives - story.

How many olives do you get?
What are you doing with them?

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  Preparing olives for eating - recipe  
From the Survey:    

Adrian in Edinburgh says -

I bought my olive tree about 3 years ago. The tree has spent its life in a yard alongside a big house, meaning that it seldom goes lower than -1C. Equally in summer it can get much more intense heat than if it was out in the garden proper. It does get very windy in the yard, but I don't protect it from the wind.

Last year I moved it into a bigger pot, using ordinary high grade general purpose potting compost. After that it became fuller and bushier, and set fruits early on. (The year before it had fruited but only very small ones, quite late in the season).

Being enclosed in a yard the tree gets much less sunshine than if it was in the open. It will get, at best, a third of a day of direct sunshine.

I have let it stress in tune with the ambient weather, only intervening when parching was likely to set in. It didn't seem to mind this at all - it has certainly not been cossetted and kept at an even moisture level day to day.


Roy in Lichfield says -

The tree was purchased in Shrewsbury about 4 years ago.

I get plenty of flowers and a few fruit, about 20. The tree was about 2 metres high, but I have just pruned it.

The olives are very salty and bitter. The olive tree is planted near a fence in dry clay soil, between the house and the pond so it is quite protected.

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Jules in Suffolk says -

I brought my olive tree as a small sapling (about 35cm tall) from Majorca where I used to own an apartment with my partner. For the first 2 years I kept it in a greenhouse in our cottage in Suffolk, it produced a lot of flowers and many very tiny olives (2mm) - they always fell off. The next 2 years it lived outside in a medium sized pot, still losing fruit but giving steady and sturdy growth. 2 years ago I planted it in a sunny, sheltered border, well staked. During those 2 years my sister, who dyes yarn, had been tipping her un-unused dye on the border - this year my FIRST olives! I am so excited. Ok, so there are only about a dozen but it's a start and wonderful to have a living memory of some happy Mediterranean years spent in Majorca. I am going to harvest those are of a sensible size and try pickling them this year. I now need to read up and prune the tree as I haven't ever done so and I believe it should have more space in between the centre branches. Here's hoping for an even better harvest next year - something tells me our climate is definitely changing.


Michael in Essex says -

12- Olives on one tree, 1- Olive on the second tree.Both trees were purchased last year(2008) they are in Pots and are about 1 Metre high. I live in North Essex near Colchester. The fruit is green now and small, about the same size as shown in your photo from Edinburgh.


Melanie in London says -

We have 4 quite mature (about 8/9 ft) olive trees on our roof terrace in central london. They are in pots but very large ones. When we moved here nearly two years ago they were already well established and healthy looking but had little or no olives. This summer we fed them all regularly with tomorite and now we have hundreds of olives. I was under the impression that they would not ripen so have done nothing with them. However having read the info on your website I now know that I may be able to pick, prepare and eat them.


Janet in Essex says -

I received a pot grown olive tree for my birthday at the end of July 2009. It is about 4 ft. high (sorry not metric) and produced 21 olives which I preserved at the end of November using your info. They are all small and we ate some this weekend after marinating them in olive oil, lemon juice and garlic. Whilst they are not of the quality we purchase in the shops, it was very surprising and fun to eat our own produce.




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