Looking for fresh olives? Here’s why you won’t find them at the grocery store!
Sorry to disappoint all of the olive lovers out there, but the fresh fruit actually tastes really horrible – so horrible that grocery stores won’t sell it. The compound in the fruit that makes it taste so disgusting and bitter is oleuropein. Fresh olives contain up to 14 per cent of it. (Here are 26 foods you should never buy again.)
To make olives edible, professional olive processors and bold home cooks use three different methods to remove the oleuropein. The first two methods are soaking them in water or fermenting them in a salt brine. The downside to those methods is that they take weeks. The third method is a chemical shortcut, and it can get olives onto supermarket shelves much faster after being picked. It involves soaking the olives in Lye, or sodium hydroxide.
Also known as NaOH, sodium hydroxide speeds up the chemical breakdown between oleuropein and sugar to less bitter (and tastier) compounds. This whole process takes about one week. After being thoroughly rinsed of any chemicals, the olives are packed in salt brine to help preserve them when being shipped. (Here are four more ways science can trick your taste buds.)
Sometimes the saying, “fresh is always better” isn’t always true, and with olives, that is definitely the case. Next, find out these five fascinating facts about olive oil.