The Urban Olive

Consider an olive tree, full of large juicy fruit with hues of green, red and black. It’s there, and it’s free, waiting to be picked and turned into food. If this tree was in the middle of nowhere, which incidentally is the worst part of nowhere, I’d understand if the fruit went undiscovered and met its maker as it dropped off the branch – death by natural causes. But if this tree is in the middle of a thriving suburb, with thousands passing by it daily, isn’t it a crime for the fruit to go to waste?

I found this little olive tree in Newtown! Yes, Newtown – the urban center of alternative bohemia, the old and the new, the deeply carnivorous and the savagely vegetarian, the eco-conscious and the overconsumer, the good, the bad and the ugly. Newtown has it all. Sure it does. For some reason though, it still isn’t the kind of place people would consider foraging to be an acceptable hobby. I passed by this tree on my way back from my birthday lunch. Lainy and Sara were there and so was my brother Maroun and the omnipresent Ludwig. I got 2 paper bags from a local cafe, Ludwig climbed and picked the high branches, Maroun and I took care of the lower ones, while Lainy held Sara who was wonderfully amused by the whole scene. Fifteen minutes later, or should I say 2 kilos of beautiful olives later, we were all buzzing with joy from our little treasure. What can I say? The best birthday present ever!

So olives are now at the end of the season. Pick them this week or wait a whole year. I bet there are some in your neighbourhood going to waste. I know there’s a huge tree near Central station that would feed 20 people for a year. Seek it! I would have done it, but I am no where near the city these days. So here’s your chance. Get out there and pick some olives!

Here’s what I imagine you’d ask:

Q: I don’t know how an olive tree looks like
A: It’s the one with olives on it

Q: I don’t know if they’re ripe
A: They are. Now’s the time to pick them

Q: What if they’re poisonous olives
A: They’re not

Q: What if they belong to someone
A: Any self-respecting olive grower has harvested by now, so should you

Q: I tasted the olive from the tree and it was still bitter
A: It will certainly be bitter, regardless of how ripe. You need to cure it

Q: Cure it? Is it sick?
A: No! Curing means adding salt/brine or using a method to extract the bitterness and preserve the olive

Q: How do I cure it?
A: Use Google to find out. All you need is rock salt and a bit of patience – usually 3 weeks or so of waiting. Recipes vary. Mom uses around 200 grams of salt per  kilo (at the most). Others use a kilo. Search for Greek salt cured olives recipe

Good luck!


  • Hey Fouad, those olives look fantastic! Imagine that, finding these in the middle of suburbia on your way home. Brilliant. I can’t wait to see what you’re going to do with these.
    Greetings from Gib, and a happy belated birthday.

  • Urban harvest! Love the look of delight on your face, please let us know when you’ve cured them and what you will do with them!

  • awesome! We have a section of road nearby that is lined with Olive Trees – the local Italians pick them bare when they’re in season 🙂

  • Happy pickings from such a busy suburb! There are pockets of olive trees throughout Sydney but apparently you have to lucky to procur them first. Well done and hope you enjoy your cured offerings 😀

  • Wow! What an awesome idea! Next time you go there’ll probably be none left though, the secret’s out now…

  • Thank you for sharing this reminds me of childhood in Koura, North Lebanon. Growing up there we were exposed yearly to the olive harvest season we were across from an olive press.. mmm the smell of freshly pressed olive oil.

  • Here, in the Adelaide parklands, there are plantations of olive trees. I’m not sure who gets to pick them, but they are thoroughly harvested every year so foragers have to look elsewhere. I think that prospective harvesters have to tender to the council for the whole crop.

  • Hi Fouad

    We got hold of some massive olives this week from the local Lebanese fruit and veggie man.

    We are actually curing them today!

    I’ll see if I can get pics.

    And you are spot on about curing. Salt, lemon leaves and bits of chilli.

  • Yes it’s true. Sometimes things are so expensive and important roll in next to us, we do not think even bend over and collect them. I once saw an experiment that someone did. He hung on the tree of dollars in a street. And people did not stop to pick them. Just do not think there could be such a thing:)

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