The olive is an evergreen tree or shrub native to the Mediterranean, Asia and parts of Africa. Its fruit, the olive, has been consumed throughout history in its whole form or as olive oil. Olives are harvested at either the young green stage or left to mature on the branch to become the dark or black olive. The fruit, being bitter in its natural state, is then typically cured with strong brine or salt to make it more palatable. Before consumption, olives need to be soaked in fresh water to satisfy the European palate. Green olives are picked first, the dark olives ripening naturally on the trees. Like the grapes of a vineyard, the changing environmental conditions affect the quality and quantity of the harvest. The fresh crop has a lively, tangy, slightly bitter flavour. As the olives mature towards the end of the year, the olives become milder and creamier.