20 Jan

Turkish Olives & Olive Oil

Olives
Worldwide, there are approximately 10 million hectares where olive trees are grown. There are around 900 million trees, of which 98% are found in the countries of the Mediterranean, 90 million of which are in Turkey. In the harvest season of 2000-2001, the 80 million trees found in the Aegean region are expected to bear fruit, whereas 7 million will probably not.

In the olive-growing region of the Mediterranean, Turkey grows its olives largely near the shores of the Aegean and Marmara seas as well as the southeast region of Anatolia. The most important region for olive growing is in the Aegean, which ranges from Canakkale to Mugla. In Turkey, about 400,000 families earn their living from olive production and around 8,000-10,000 people have additional earnings from this industry, highlighting the importance of this sector.


In the Aegean region, about 80.5% of the country’s olive production is realized, whereas 11.8% takes place in the Mediterranean and 6.1% takes place in the Marmara region. The largest olive producers in the world are Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal, Tunisia, Turkey, Syria, Morocco and Algeria.

In the 2000/2001 harvest season, it is estimated that the Aegean region will house about 64 million trees that bear fruit, 4 million that will not, and that each tree will yield about 18.5 kg of fruit, or 1 million individual olives. Of that harvest 225,000 tons will be consumed as olives, 950.000 tons will be set aside for oil production and this amount will likely yield 170,000 tons of olive oil. When other regions are included, olive oil production may amount to as much as 225,000 tons per year.

Olive Oil
Olive oil has been used in the oil burning lamps that played an important role in the most sacred and religious ceremonies. Olive oil was among the first products made in the agricultural age of the history of mankind. It was believed that olive oil was a source of youth and strength. In ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, a variety of flowers and herbs would be mixed with olive oil in the preparation of medication and cosmetics. In the 15th century, Spanish priests brought olives and olive oil to Central and South America and later to California.

Until the 1970’s, for people not of Mediterranean origin, olive oil was considered a product for special use. It was considered an authentic product that was kept in the back shelves of markets, and was something to be used for sorcery by those from the Far East.

Since olive oil is used largely in Mediterranean cooking, westerners only got to know olive oil when they went to restaurants. Thanks to some researches done in the 1970’s, however, olive oil took attraction. One of the researches showed that people from the Mediterranean had a lower rate of heart disease than those from other Western countries. That result was largely attributed to the role of olive oil in the Mediterranean diet. Thus it appeared that the use of olive oil until young adulthood contributes to good nutrition, that in later years it reduces calcium loss and thus reduced bone loss and helps during pregnancy. The acid from the oil positively affects cells and the nervous system. Olive oil is good for strengthening blood vessels and rich in antioxidants.

Because of these reasons, demand for olive oil in Western countries soared in the 1980’s. Consumers decided to eat wisely, to avoid foods with additives and to choose natural products. As people discovered healthy eating, olive oil gained more importance.

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