Olive tree has been inextricably associated with the history and culture of the land of Turks, as well as of the whole world for over 6000 years now. One can assume that Turkish olive oil too is that many years old, since Turkey is among the earliest manufacturers of the oil.
History of Turkish Olive Oil
Cultivation of this historically significant tree and extraction of its much beneficial oil is now a worldwide commercial business. But during its initial stages, it was concentrated in very distinct regions of the world, mostly along the shores of Mediterranean. Turkey, along with Spain, Greece, Italy and the Aegean Islands, was one of the earliest cultivators of olive and makers of cosmetic and cooking olive oil.
In fact, remnants of the oldest recorded olive oil facility can be found in the ruins of a Klazomenai settlement dating back to 600 BC in West Anatolia, in the Urla district near Izmir, previously known as Smyrna. This place by the coast of Aegean Sea, is believed to be the cradle of olive plantation and olive oil extraction, and rightfully so.
Varieties and Flavors
If you are buying authentic Turkish olive oil, you need to understand the names on the label and get an idea of what kind of olive oil the package contains. Here is a classification of the most common kind available in the market:
Naturel sizma zeytinyagi
This is the equivalent of extra virgin olive oil and contains the least amount of acidity in its composition. This type is considered to be the most premium and elite quality and is very high in nutritional value, thus a great addition to one’s everyday meal plan.
Erken hasat naturel sizma zeytinyagi
This is the early harvest olive oil, made from the first set of harvest of the year. This type is characterized by a more bitter, peppery and pungent flavor. Since more olives are required per unit of olive oil during the early harvest time, it has a slightly higher price than the regular productions. But they are even lower in acidity than extra virgin olive oil and has a high antioxidant content.
Naturel birinci zeytinyagi
The standard virgin olive oil, often alternated as pomace olive oil, this one comes with acidity levels between 0.8% and 2%. The levels of acid, especially of oleic acid, is slightly higher in this than EVOO, and the flavor punch is a little bit less intense, but it is still a very good quality of unrefined olive oil.
This is what the market calls pure olive oil or refined olive oil, with an acidity level higher than 2%. During the medieval times, this was used in the lamps and lanterns of the royalties. It is not mostly used for cosmetic purposes, and rather avoided when it comes to consumption.
Cultivation and Extraction
The best olive oils in Turkey are made in the same traditional method that has been around for ages. The fruits are hand-plucked and sorted, any remnant leaves are detached and then crushed into a mash with cold press, without any chemical or heat for the unrefined variety.
Turkish Olive Oil has very specific characteristics that set it apart from the rest. It comes with a smooth texture, a gentle rancid taste and adds great flavor to Mediterranean dishes. It is said that once you taste a dish made and dressed with Turkey’s own, no other olive oil will match up to its standard.