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A 6000-Year-Old Contribution to the Mediterranean Diet: Olive & Olive Oil from Turkey

A 6000-Year-Old Contribution to the Mediterranean Diet: Olive & Olive Oil from Turkey

Turkish Tastes

Today, more than any other time in history, we have access to extensive culinary information and ingredients from around the world. This access has encouraged consumers to move towards healthy living by modifying their diets with nutritious foods. And, the pandemic only accelerated this movement. In this article, we are bringing a thousands-year-old contribution to the Mediterranean Diet to your attention as it has been underrepresented since the beginning: Turkish Olive & Olive Oil.

We can find so many different olive and olive oil brands from different countries in almost every grocery store. Is Turkish olive and olive oil any different? Short answer: Yes. However, this answer should be elaborated for both consumers and connoisseurs.

History, Facts & Figures of Turkish Olive & Olive Oil

Research has shown that the motherland of olive tree is the province of Hatay in Turkey, historically known as Antioch (where you can visit the first church in the history ever built!). The region hosts olive trees that are 1500 years old. The older the tree, the more mature the taste. Furthermore, it produces a refined and smoother texture.

City of Urla in Izmir hosts the very first olive oil extraction installation in the history. While the installation dates back to 6th century, the olive storages nearby date back to BC 3000s. So, it is no surprise Homeros, in his Epic of Iliada estimated to be written in BC 1199, mentions his dinner under olive trees.

Today, Turkey is ranked as the 5th largest olive oil manufacturer with the 250,000 tons production (including extra virgin) and the 3rd largest olive producer with the 450,000 tons harvest in 2020. The country’s production capacity and supply stood strong during the pandemic as the industry takes the advantage of 660,000 HA (app. 1,630,000 acres) of olive farming with 200 million olive trees and 500,000 employees working for the industry.

Turkey’s Aegean and Mediterranean regions grant access to many different types of olives and oils due to specific localities where they are cultivated.  The olives and the olive oils cultivated from the Northern Regions will be more aromatic, darker in color and have a dense flavor. The characteristics of olives and oils from the Southern regions are fruitier in flavor and a lighter color making it a great oil to blend with other olive oils to customize a flavor and texture profile.

Here is the good news for American consumers and foodservice professionals: Turkish olive and olive oil import to the US have been steadily increasing in the past 5 years (except the pandemic’s first year). With the advantages and benefits of Turkish products, why not take a taste challenge and discover for yourself the wonderful flavors of Turkish olives and olive oils.

Desiring more information about Turkish olives and oils? Follow us on Turkish Tastes Official on Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn and reach out to agr1@eib.org.tr. We hope you will join us monthly here at F&B Magazine for additional articles on Turkish Cuisine.

Did You Know This? Turkey is…

  1. The 3rd largest supplier of table olives with more than 90 types of table olives
  2. The 5th largest supplier of olive oil (including Extra Virgin) 
  3. The motherland of olive trees where you can find 1300-year-old olive trees
  4. The host to the first olive oil extraction installation in the history
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