I picked my first olives this morning, one or two of them were starting to get pecked by the birds so it was obviously time. We did have olives last year, but we were away when they ripened and the birds got the lot. (The year before, we got one!!)
I found a recipe on the internet which explained how to remove the bitterness, and they are now soaking in a brine solution - all 1.75 kg of them! It may not sound a lot, but should fill quite a few jars. The olives have to soak in brine for at least ten days, and the brine must be changed each day. To test if they're ready you have to taste one - if you've ever tasted an olive straight from the tree you'll realise this is not something to be undertaken lightly!
I'm not sure what I'll do with them after that - need to do a bit more research. The recipe says to bottle them in brine with a centimetre of olive oil on the top, but I think there are ways to add other flavourings too, i.e. herbs, garlic etc. How exciting to have our very own olives!
I've saved a couple of stones from the ones the birds had pecked so I'll plant those to see if they'll grow. We're a long way off an orchard though!