Ancient traditional taste of Mediterranean cuisine .
Treasured since ancient times for their excellent nutritional quality, olives and olive oil have always been essential component of the diet in many Mediterranean civilizations, especialy those located in Anatolia (Asiatic part of Turkey), That’s why Turkish olive and olive oil represents the ancient traditional taste o Mediterranean cuisine. The olives in Turkey are mosty harvested by hand and are often grown in organic conditions. Because of the extra costs to get official organic certifıcation, many small growers can not afford to get the official NOP organic certifıcate to put on their olive oil labels. Over half a million people in Turkey make their lives with fruits of olive trees. As a versatie ingredient, olive oil has been used not only as a flavor enhancer in various dishes, but also as a medicine for heaing wounds, as fuel for lamps and as cosmetics for the hair and skin in different cultures.
Considered sacred, it has been the symbol of peace and richness connecting three continents in one soul. Athough the olive tree is native to the eastem Mediterranean basin, it gradually spread westwards beyond Turkey into Europe due to its increased importance as a source of edibe oil. Having the longest coastline on the Mediterranean Sea, Turkey has been one of the major producers of olives among Mediterranean countries. Thus, olive oil traditions and dishes have been the pride of Turkish cuisine since the time of the Ottomans. Likewise, table olives have been a staple at every Turkish breakfast, generaly beside a slice of bread and traditional white cheese. Today, Turkey supplies the olives and olive oil of Mediterranean cuisine al over the world.
Healthy for all ages
Olives and olive oil are appreciated not only for their nutritional quality but aso for their health benefıts. Among edible oils, olive oil is the only one that can be produced by physical methods from a fresh fruit and can be consumed immediately after pressing the olive, like fruit juice. Likewise, a compex process, other than treatment with either dry salt or brine, is not required to produce table olives. Namely, olive oil and tabe olives are pure, natural, healthy products that require minimal processing. Today, olive oil is increasingly present on the food scene as the healthiest atemative to other edible oils. Some studies indicate that olive oil helps to reduce the evels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein), known as “bad choesterol”, due to its higher percentage of monounsaturated fatty acids content (oleic acid: 61 -83%) than any other type of edible oil. Athough cholesterol is necessary for many bodily functions, excess LDL leves cause deposrts of choesterol in the tissue cels of the body leading to clogged arteries, restricted blood flow, high blood pressure, heart disease, and strokes.
Researches also suggest that monounsaturated fatty acids in olive oil help to either increase or maintain the levels of HDL (highdensity lipoproteins), known as “good choesterol”, that carry excess cholestero to the liverto be eliminated from the body. This is in contrast to other edible ois that contain high percentages of polyunsaturated fatty acids because they also reduce good cholesterol while lowering total and bad cholestero. Therefore, it is thought that olive oil improves the functioning of the circuatory and cardiovascularsystem by reducing the levels of LDL and maintaining the leves of HDL and guards against arterial bockage. Olive oil is rich in natural anti-oxidants such as vitamin E, which help to eliminate free radicals from the body. Some studies confirm the excellent effects of olive oil on bone growth, brain development and digestion. It helps to reduce the incidence of breast cancer and cell aging. It has been proved that olive oil activates bile secretion and stimuates pancreatic lipase, In addition, its emollient effect protects against ucers, and reduces the riskof galstones. It impraves triglyceride activity and increases the rate of fat absorption. In addition to providing nutnents to the skin, this divine elixir protects and softens the face and body, maintaining a young, healthy and beautiful appearance.
Olives grow best in warm temperatures, and cannot tolerate extremel climatic conditions. The Mediterranean region, owing to its mild climate, contains 98% of the olive harvest and 95% of the olive oil production in the world. Harvesting and processing of olives are carried out between Novemberand Manch. About 70% of the olives produced in Turkey are pressed for oil and the rest are reserved for table olives.
Table Olive and Olive Oil Production of Turkey
Season Olive oil Table olives
2000/01 175 224
2001/02 65 85
2002/03 140 165
2003/04 79 125
2004/05 145 240
2005/06 112 280
2006/07 165 240
2007/08 72 200
2008/09 130 300
2009/10 147 390
2010/11* 160 330
2011/12** 180 450
Source: International Olive Oil Council- IOOC
*: Provisional **: Estimate
In Turkey, olive oil production has undergone remarkable developments since the eighties and more and more olive oil plants have weither started to produce virgin olive oil or increased their production capacity. Now, Turkey has the capacity to supply more than 300 thousand tons of olive oil per year owing to its largescae pants with modern bottling lines. Table olives are also produced in modem plants equipped with advanced technology, which enables them to comply with the standards of hygienic packaging. High quality production of table olives is done in retail packs such as cans, gass jars and or vacuum packed bags. There are compusory export standards for table olives and olive oil in Turkey. Thus, production in all plants conforms to the standards of the Turkish Standards Institute (TSE), which are also consistent wrth the international standards. Olive oil is classified as “extra virgin”, “virgin”, “refined” and “riviera” (a blend of virgin and refined olive oil that is called “olive oil” in international standards) based on the means of production as well as the physical properties and organoeptic characteristics of the product Dueto the preferences of consumers who are less familiar with the natural taste of olive oil, some are also produced with added flavorings such as garlic, onion, nutmeg, fresh thyme, basil or bay leaves. In international standards, table olives are cassified as “green olives”, “olives turning color” and “black olives”. They are commercially produced in the forms of “stoned”, “stuffed” (with pimento, capers, etc), “haved”, “sliced”, “paste” as well as “whole” olives. It is quite common in Turkey to start the day by having a rich breakfast including this nutritious food, which contains abundant calsium, iron and vitamin A. There are few countries in the world which have a consumption pattern of olives elose to Turkey but according to one’s palate, olives can also be used in the preparation of various dishes. Olives are put in pizzas, salads and cooked dishes as an ingredient and or eaten as an appetizer usually to accompany a drink.
Being a net exporter of olive oil, Turkey supplies the variety of olive oil to a wide range of countnes including major producer countnes that weither consume or re-export Turkish olive oil.
Turkish olive oil is demanded from every part of the world and there are more than hundred countnes that have experienced the excelent taste and fragrance of Turkish olive oil such as the EU, the USA, Saudi Arabia, Japan, South Korea, Philippines, Australia, South African Republic, and the Russian Federation.
Although organic production still occupies a small proportion of the total area and output of olives, Turkeys organıc olive and olive oil exports are also rising in parallel with the healthier consumption trends in the world.
Afthough production fluctuates due to the periodicity of the olive tree, exports of table olives have been continuously growing over the last years. In 2011, the export value of tabe olives reached the highest evel with US$ 126,6 milion. Germany, Romania, Iraq, the USA and Bulgaria are the most important export markets fortable olives, representing about 72% of the exports for the last year. Germany maintains first pace in Turkish olive exports with 29% of the value exported.
Source: Turkey’s Ministry of Economy