Hurriyet Daily News
Aylin Öney Tan
There is something beyond the Mediterranean Sea that bounds the countries sharing its shores: The olive. The olive tree is mentioned from the Torah to the Bible and eventually in the Quran. In the Quran it is mentioned as the “Şecere-i Tayyibe,” a beneficial fruitful tree, or functional if it can be described as such.
Olive oil is not only essential to Mediterranean cuisines but it is also a symbol of life, a source of life that creates a culture around its existence. Mediterranean kids are born to its taste, and the rest of their lives are evolved around it; olive oil is like an invisible umbilical cord that binds them together beyond ethnicity and religion. With the start of the olive harvest season, this reality was once again demonstrated in the Aegean town of Ayvalık last week, the foremost olive growing region in Turkey.
The Ayvalık International Olive Harvest Festival is an organization in its 11th year initiated by the Ayvalık Chamber of Commerce. This year the harvest days were celebrated from Nov. 6-8. This year’s title was, “If there are olives, there is life! For millennia,” emphasizing the crucial role of the olive tree in Aegean life throughout the ages. The organization has gone international in recent years with the collaboration of the International Olive Council (IOC), the Network of Mediterranean Olive Oil Towns (Re.C.O.Med. / Rete delle Città dell’Olio) and QvExtra, a Spanish-based international association for quality control. Among the guests was also the mayor of Kyrenia, Cyprus, joining the harvest festival for the first time, along with participants from Greece and France. Leaving aside conflicts and rivalry in the olive oil business, the participants shared mutual interests in expanding the culture of olive oil culture to the world, beyond the boundaries of the Mediterranean.
The panel dedicated to the cultural background of olives gave insight into the rich past of the fruitful tree.
Mediterranean history is bathed in olive oil, as German olive historian Dr. Horst Schäfer Schuchardt has shown; olive oil production was a main source of sustenance in the Roman Empire, while of course most of the earliest findings of olive oil production re found in excavations in Asia Minor, most of them yet to be recognized internationally. Enrico Lupi, the legendary former president of the International Olive Oil Council, now the founding director of Re.C.O.Med., said, Mediterranean culture can conquer the world just with olive oil. It is the common interest of all olive-growing countries to make the culture related to the golden oil globally known. Eminent Turkish historian İlber Ortaylı, as always, suggested provoking issues, stating that the olive cannot foster in every climate, like democracy, thus it is precious that we maintain our olive culture. As both Lupi and Ortaylı strongly argue, olive oil is a lifestyle for the children born to it.
One step to maintain the future of this culture was announced by Rahmi Gencer, the mayor of Ayvalık: The town will be nominated for the UNESCO Cultural Heritage List, with its culture related to olive agriculture, from gastronomy to soap-making and to the heritage of industrial archaeology. The application will run through next January and be discussed by the committee next April. Meanwhile, the municipality will be busy negotiating the site management plan with major stakeholders, including of course olive oil manufacturers. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for the application to be accepted and pray just as the mayor did:
Live long as the olive tree, be as fertile as the olive fruit, be as healthy as the olive oil and wish for a peaceful year signified by the olive branch!
Olive oil diversity promoted with project
Bringing the tastes of Anatolia to tables across the world, NAR Gourmet is implementing the Mobile Olive Oil Production Truck Project, featuring a one-of-a-kind mobile olive oil press machine that will gather olives from different provinces in Turkey. The olive oil production on wheels delivers the freshest results, while highlighting the local olive varieties grown in Mardin, Hatay, Gaziantep, Kilis, Manisa, Mersin, Antalya and Ayvalık, while traveling more than 4,000 kilometers across Turkey.
This groundbreaking initiative unveils a new tactic in creating the most high-quality, fresh olive oils throughout a diverse region. This mobile production facility is an exciting enterprise that goes directly to the groves of the Anatolia region to ensure the freshest product, processing the local varieties of olives picked in their own ecological environment within two hours of harvesting, capturing the true essence of the Mediterranean coast.
“In order to take the production facility to the grove, we aimed to design an olive oil processing facility that yields excellent olive oil that reflects the quality of the region,” said Samir Bayraktar, NAR Gourmet General Manager. “Our goal is to overcome the problems associated with the process of transforming local olives into high-quality olive oil. Through this initiative we are not only supporting the local, small producers with our mobile production truck, but providing recognition of the local intricate tastes of the Anatolian region.”