African Olives, or Olea europaea subspecies Africana, is a common noxious weed of roadsides, neglected land and stream banks. Their season for fruiting is late summer to autumn. African Olive produces fruit that are usually smaller and less fleshy than those of plants cultivated for edible olives and olive oil. African Olive was introduced to Australia from eastern Africa in the mid-1800s as a hedging plant and rootstock for the edible European Olive. It soon ‘jumped the garden fence’ and started spreading along the eastern seaboard. Today African Olive is regarded as the most serious environmental weed threatening remnant native vegetation throughout the Sydney Basin, Central Coast and Hunter Valley.
These olives can be eaten raw, unlike conventional olives, and are also easy to preserve in a simple filtered water and salt brine, which can be left at room temp for several weeks then stored in the fridge. Just ne careful of the tiny pips, which you must spit out.
My mum is also partial to a spot of pre dinner 'weeding' when she comes to stay with me. Whilst on a night stroll, we by-passed Woolworths with all their "Save, save, save" hullabaloo in the front window and thought, "Yep, we're saving alright, just not your way, mate! Muahahaha." A few car emissions here and there (depending where you forage), or drowning in pesticide... I know what I'd prefer to ingest.
Here is our savoury mince and creamy polenta with wild mallow, dandelion and dock greens, topped with wild African olives.
Another great way to make use of African olives whilst they're in season is in a Dirty Martini. I add wild foraged African olives to gin and instead of a dash of olive juice, a dash of my homemade fermented kombucha tea.