When to pick olives in Australia

There’s a lot of variation in olive ripening times which can make it difficult to know when to harvest.

We are reader-supported and may receive a commission on purchases made through links on this page.

Curious about when your olives will be ready for harvest? There’s more to it than just biting into an olive and hoping for the best.

Below we lay out some simple tips to help you choose the best time to pick your olives.

When is the best time to pick olives in Australia?

The olive picking season in Australia runs from Autumn through to early Winter.

However, this will vary based on a number of factors including the olive tree variety and the climate in your specific location.

The best way to know when to pick your olives is by examining the fruit on the tree.

How can you tell when olives are ready to pick?

Olives on the same tree will ripen at different times, which can make it difficult to choose the right time to harvest.

Each olive will start off green and then turn to brown and then black.

Olives can be harvested at any point during this ripening process depending on what your intended use for them is.

Most people harvest their olives when the majority of the fruit has turned from green to brown.

Other tips for assessing when olives are ready

According to York Olive Co, you shouldn’t worry too much about the skin colour of your olives.

Instead, they say the olive should “feel “right” when squeezed; neither rock hard nor too soft, as if you are checking the ripeness of an apricot or peach.”

They also outline a technique where the olive is sliced in half and you assess the flesh.

They say that if your olives are ready for picking the “cross-section will show a thin layer of purple flesh directly under the skin, but the rest of the flesh around the stone will still be creamy in colour (maybe a little bit of straw colour but no green)”

The “free stone” technique for green olives

As described by New Zealand olive company Telegraph Hill, there is a simple method for determining whether green olives are ready to be picked:

  1. Slice the olive in half around the stone
  2. Twist each half to separate them
  3. When one half comes away cleanly, the green olive is ready to be picked.

Why are my olives so small?

There are a number of factors that can lead to smaller olives than you were hoping for, including:

  • Variety – Some olive trees naturally produce smaller fruit than others.
  • Watering – Regular watering is essential for the health of an olive tree. Water about once per week but don’t let it get wet feet (avoid leaving the soil very damp).
  • Pruning – Prune annually after harvesting. Similar to how you would prune roses, cut out the branches that cross the centre to allow more light to reach the leaves and more air to circulate.
  • Age – Olives produced in the early years of an olive tree’s life will often be smaller than those it produces when it is mature.

FAQ

Can you eat olives straight from the tree?

You can, but they won’t taste very nice. Olives picked straight from the tree are hard and very bitter. To make them palatable, oleuropein and phenolic compounds are removed or reduced.

Photo of author

Steve Kropp

Based in Melbourne, Steve's passion is vegetable gardening, and he’s been writing about it for almost 5 years. He also loves all things DIY, and is always up for a new project. When not working on his own garden projects or blogging, Steve enjoys spending time with his family, cooking delicious meals from fresh produce picked from his garden, and coaching his son’s footy team.