Olive Oil in Turkey

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History Olive Oil

The oldest historically discovered data on olive trees dates back to about 40 thousand BC. In the archaeological studies carried out on the island of Santorini in the Aegean Sea, olive leaf fossils thought to have been grown Upper Paleolithic were found. In addition, olive tree fossils dating to approximately 25 thousand years after this date in the North African region also inform us that olive trees are grown in different geographies in the same and different eras. Unfortunately, there is no definite data or discovery about the dates and by which civilizations the very first olive harvest was made.

Olive Oil in Turkey
Olive Oil in Turkey

The first traces of olive oil dates back 6,000 years, originating in Iran, Syria, and Palestine, before heading to the Mediterranean. Historically, olive oil has been used in religious ceremonies, lamp oil, soap, skincare, and medicine and has also become an important source of nutrition for many civilizations.

What is Olive Oil?

Olive oil is a greenish, yellowish, liquid oil obtained in its natural state by squeezing directly from the fruit of the olive tree, without any chemical treatment, without any additives, and can be consumed as a liquid at room temperature. Since olive oil is obtained by squeezing the fleshy fruit of the olive together with its seed, it is a “juice” unlike other edible oils obtained from the seeds. It is raw and pure, like freshly squeezed orange or cherry juice.

Olives being picked before pressing

Olive oil does not have a fixed composition. Because olive oil types vary depending on the type of olives harvested, the year of production, the region the olive comes from, and the method of squeezing or pressing. Olive oil quality also differs from year to year. Olive oil is a complex composition consisting of fatty acids, vitamins, volatile components, water-soluble components, and microscopic olive particles.

Olive Tree

Olive Oil Production and Consumption in Turkey

World olive oil production today is around 2.91 million tons. The biggest olive oil-producing countries are; Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Tunisia, and Morocco. Turkey today is the fourth largest olive oil producer in the world with about two million tones of oil produced every year. Unfortunately, Turkey is not as famous for its olive oil as neighboring Greece and some other Mediterranean countries such as Italy and Spain. But also consumed amount of olive oil is not as much as the other countries mentioned. 21 kg of olive oil is consumed per capita in Greece, 11.5 kg in Italy, 13 kg in Spain, and only 2.1 kg in Turkey per capita per year.

Extracting Olive Oil

As the first method of obtaining olive oil in history, it is the method of removing the oil by keeping the olives crushed with feet in suitable stone pools and then keeping them in hot water. Although this technique has always been attributed to the Ancient Greek civilization, this technique was used at the same time in Anatolia and especially in the Aegean region. As the historical civilizations that lived in cities such as Ephesus, Miletus, Aphrodisias, and Hierapolis are studied through excavations and archeological works, information about olive oil production in these settlements was discovered. The Roman civilization discovered the method of obtaining olive oil by crushing olives between two stones which resulted in a staggering increase in the amount of unit oil obtained from olives.

Olive Press From Roman Period
Continuous System Olive Oil Extractor

Hydraulic pressing and motorized systems and a continuous system that is currently used to obtain olive oil have been developed eventually. Stone pressing and cold pressing still are methods of obtaining olive oil for some producers today. The pressing technique is not the only element that determines its quality. If you wish, you can use a traditional stone press or fresh cold-pressed flavor in your meals as well as the new continuous pressing system.

In order to obtain quality olive oil, healthy and undamaged grains must be harvested at the right time with appropriate methods and maybe the most important of all fruits should be processed correctly in olive pressing facilities without waiting a long time. It is extremely important to process olives as soon as possible after harvest because the olive fruit if kept for a long time will ferment, resulting in defects such as mold and high acid levels. In this case, the quality of olive oil obtained from such olives decreases and it loses its natural properties.

In summary, the quality of olive oil depends on numerous variables such as the variety of the olive tree, the geographical features of the region, climatic conditions, agricultural control or engineering, pruning, fertilization, irrigation, harvest time, harvest method, production technology applied while extracting oil from olives, storage conditions, filling and filtering processes, and packaging material.

Olive Oil Types

Natural Olive Oil Types

Extracted from the olive fruit by applying mechanical or physical processes such as washing, decantation, centrifugation, and filtration processes in a thermal environment that will not cause any change in the quality of the olive oil. Natural type olive oils carry the physical, chemical, and sensory properties of the products in the most desired quantities. Oils obtained by using solvents or aids with chemical or biochemical effects or by reesterification are excluded from this definition since they are inferior.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Extra virgin olive oil refers to the purest form of olive oil. Top-quality olives are used in the extraction process of extra virgin olive oil. The highest rate of acidity can be a maximum of 0.8. Olives to be made extra virgin olive oil must be harvested without being damaged or crushed. Therefore, in order to obtain the highest quality extra virgin olive oil products, it is important to collect olives with precision machinery, if possible not by hand. In the production of extra virgin olive oil, the olives that have been pulped are taken to the press machine, where they are crushed and filtered. The oil obtained as a result of the filtering process is purified from unwanted components by mixing with water. Maximum temperature can not exceed 27-celsius degrees. Thanks to all this care and hard work, extra virgin olive oil has a unique taste and smell.

Natural Premium Olive Oil

Fats suitable for direct consumption, with a free fatty acid content of not more than 2.0 grams per 100 grams in terms of oleic acid. Natural premium olive oils are considered not so great quality and are mostly used for high-temperature frying.

Crude Olive Oil

Oils with an acid ratio of more than 2.0 grams per 100 grams in terms of oleic acid and/or oils that are not suitable for direct consumption in terms of sensory and characteristic properties. This type should be refined to be consumed or you can use it in technical areas such as furniture polishing or body massage.

Refined Type Olive Oil

Refined olive oil is the oil obtained as a result of refining crude olive oil by methods that do not change the natural triglyceride structure, and the acidity in terms of oleic acid is not more than 0.3 grams per 100 grams. This type of oil is wrongly considered high quality since it has a low acidity level. Unfortunately, refined olive oil can not be as good as extra virgin olive oil since it doesn’t have other features such as good quality olives with nice fragrance and so many more.

Riviera Type Olive Oil

Riviera Type Olive Oil

Riviera olive oil is one of the olive oil types which is made suitable for consumption by cleaning the refined olive oil by high heat and various chemical methods. It is produced by adding some extra virgin olive oil and mixing it. It is an oil consisting of a mixture of refined olive oil and natural olive oils suitable for direct consumption, and acidity in terms of oleic acid is not more than 1.0 grams per 100 grams. The most preferred types of olive oils in Turkey and around the world are Riviera and extra virgin olive oil. Economically, extra virgin olive oil is always more expensive than the riviera. For this reason, Riviera olive oil is preferred in the first place in kitchens. In addition, riviera olive oil is can be produced quickly and has a long shelf life. For all these reasons, riviera-type oil is common in Turkey and around the world.

Seasoned Olive Oil Type

Seasoned olive oil is made by adding different spices, herbs, fruits, and vegetables into olive oil. You can easily do this by adding ingredients to the warm olive oil. I strongly recommend using riviera type olive oil for this process since flavors in the oil will be gone due to added spices or fruits. My personal favorites are garlic, lemon, and red pepper seasoned olive oil.

Seasoned Olive Oil Type

Olive Pomace Oil

Olive pomace is the pulp that still has some oil and water after processing the olive. The pomace was originally used only in soap making in past and also pomace was compressed and used as an ecological fuel. The olive pomace oil extraction process is as follows: A chemical solvent is first applied to the olive pomace, this solvent can dissolve the oils and not the rest of the olive pomace. This treatment removes the oil and then in a refining process the product is heated so that the solvent evaporates completely and cleanly without leaving any harmful residue. Refined pomace oil is used in deep frying and as cooking oil.

Olive Pomace Pressing Machine

Taking care of olive trees

Olive tree care is quite effortless. Fertilizing between January and March every year will be good for an abundant olive yield. You can harvest large olives by applying irrigation in the dry summer period. The most ideal method would be drip irrigation. The maintenance of trees is done in spring. Reconstruction of trees such as cutting unhealthy branches, bushing, and pruning is done which keeps trees fertile. Also pruning crossbreeds makes them have a unique taste on every branch. Harvesting is done in September and October.

Olive Tree Being Pruned

The trees that are taken care of will bloom eventually. You can witness full bloom in late spring, April, and mid-May. Depending on the care and yield, you can get at least 5 kilos and even 50 kilos of olives from a tree. In order for the olive tree to have a long life, the trees should be pruned. When trees are not pruned, branches may break due to excessive yield. The fruit may be of poor quality. With the method called rejuvenation pruning, the branches that are dry and above each other are pruned and this extends the life of the olive tree.

The olive tree, which is among the tree species with very long life, lives for approximately 300 or 400 years. It is even possible to come across 2000-year-old olive trees. The fertile period can be between 30 and 150 years.

How Olive Oil is Made

How Olive Oil is Made

Olives collected to extract oil are subjected to the oil pressing process and table olives are subjected to the sweetening process. In order to obtain olive oil, olives and their seeds are crushed and turned into a paste. The obtained olive puree is softened by heating. If the temperature of the water during olive squeezing is below 27 degrees, this type of olive oil is called cold-pressed.

The nutritional value of cold-pressed olive oil produced at low temperatures is higher than that of hot-pressed olive oil. Since cold water is used, less olive oil comes out, that’s why a big amount of olive fruits have to be processed in production. Olives can be heated up to 35 to 50 degrees during hot pressing. This may cause some nutritional values in olives to decrease. You can choose to use cold-pressed olive oil to feel the olive flavor in its purest form.

Olive harvesting methods have not changed for thousands of years. As in the early days, it is harvested by shaking the tree with a pole and handpicking from the tree. Recently, harvesting has started with the machine. Mechanical harvesting is done by a large vibrating machine that shakes the tree. It shortens harvest time and reduces costs. It is a suitable method for both large enterprises and small farmers.

Olive Pressing

There are several methods when it comes to obtaining oil from olives. The first one is the old stone pressing. Olives are simply smashed by two circular stones and then pressed. Oil coming out is purified by cold water. This is the best system that creates low acidity olive oil.

The second and most common system is the continuous system of olive oil extraction made mostly in the factories. The continuous system heats the oil and lowers the quality. The high acidity level is lowered by chemical processes. I strongly recommend finding and getting some olive oil in Turkey. If you can the old stone mill pressed oil is a treasure you should get when you are in Turkey.

12 Benefits of Olive Oil

  1. Antioxidants, phenolic compounds and acids in olives have a protective effect against cardiovascular diseases, hypertension and cancer.
  2. Olive consumption is protective against gastritis and ulcers.
  3. Oleic acid in the olive also protects from intestine, breast and skin cancer.
  4. Due high vitamin E content in olives, which is the most essential for the skin, it prevents the aging of tissues.
  5. Consuming olives plays an active role in children’s intelligence and bone development.
  6. Having some olive oil everyday regulates and accelerates metabolism.
  7. Olive oil regulates digestion.
  8. Especially extra virgin olile oil cleanses the liver.
  9. Olive oil is commonly used in hair care.
  10. Olive oil helps maintaining blood pressure.
  11. Having a spoon of natural olive oil a day is good for cholesterol.
  12. Natural olive oil contributes to the natural development of the brain and nervous system of babies before and after birth because it contains linoleic acid (omega 6) found in breast milk and cannot be synthesized in the body.

Learn How to Pick High Quality Olive Oil

First of all, in the production of high-quality, natural olive oil, many ideal conditions must come together for the olive tree to grow good fruits. Many factors are of great importance, from the climate to the mineral richness of the soil, the way the olive was collected, the degree of maturity of the olive, and even the waiting period after the olive is harvested before the extraction. For this reason, olive oil production should be done by experienced farmers who are specialized in this field and every stage of production should be controlled.

With the increasing awareness of healthy living, the interest in olive oil is increasing all around the world. The production technique, smell, taste, color, brand, and packaging of olive oil are the most important control points for a healthy and delicious olive oil. By using the methods below, you can quickly understand whether the olive oil you will use in your meals and salads is real or not. There are many different methods to find out if olive oil is real. I present to you 4 methods to understand whether olive oil is real or not.

Learn How to Pick High Quality Olive Oil

Freezing Test

If your olive oil freezes and crystallizes at 0 to -6 Celsius degrees, the oil should be real. If some of it is hardened or decomposed, you may suspect that it has additives. Note: Leave in the freezer for at least 60 minutes.

Water Test

Pour a small amount of oil into a glass of water, if the oil bubbles up and goes up to the surface of the water and stays that way, you have genuine olive oil. Olive oil mixed with different substances stay still in the water

Tasting Test

When real olive oil is tasted directly, it burns the throat. This feeling does not go on in your stomach.

Odor Test

You should look for fruity scents in real olive oil. You should feel the fruit smell.

Features of a High Quality Olive Oil

Fruit Flavor

The taste, smell, and aroma of the fresh olive fruit when it is picked from the branch is preserved for some time in the fruit. Fruit flavors such as freshly cut grass, green apple, green banana peel, almonds, artichokes, etc. can be felt. It is obtained by collecting dark green and fresh olives and squeezing them without wasting any time. The more flavors you smell, the higher the quality of the olive oil is considered.

Features of a High Quality Olive Oil


Bitterness, which is one of the positive features, is carried from the fresh olive fruit into the olive oil. Sometimes almond bitterness is sometimes felt and identified as black pepper. It is an indication that the phenolic components in the olive fruit are transported to the olive oil.

Throat Burn

It is another indicator that the phenolic components in olive fruit were transported to oil. When a small amount of oil is taken into the mouth and carried to the throat by inhaling, it should leave a burning sensation in the nose and throat. However, this feeling should continue until the swallowing point of the throat, not for the rest of the trachea.

Storing Olive Oil

Storing Olive Oil

Olive oil types are very sensitive. Therefore, it is necessary to take great care when it comes to storing olive oil. Especially olive oils purchased for long-term storage should be stored in the right type of containers and in the right storage environments. The healthiest containers for long-term storage of olive oils are those made of glass. In addition, storage tanks and tins made of stainless steel are ideal for storing olive oil too. It is also possible to store olive oil in containers made of earthenware but since these containers have a porous structure, they are extremely difficult to clean. Organisms remaining in the pores of the container can cause damage to the olive oil if proper cleaning is not made. Regular metal containers or plastic bottles are not suitable for storing olive oil. Olive oils filled in suitable boxes should be stored at room temperature; should not be placed in the refrigerator unless necessary.

Hire Tour Guide in Turkey

Want to learn more about Turkish olive oil? Want to taste the best olive oils that Turkey can offer? Want to visit olive gardens in Turkey? Then contact your licensed Turkish tour guide, Hasan Gülday. Contact me to learn more about olive oil in Turkey and to have a guide for an unforgettable time in Turkey. See you soon, Hasan Gülday.

Hasan Gülday

Hasan Gülday. Professional licensed tour guide working in Turkey.

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