Treasured since ancient times for their excellent nutritional quality, olives and olive oil have always been essential component of the diet in many Mediterranean civilizations, especially those located in Anatolia.
As a versatile ingredient, olive oil has been used not only as a flavor enhancer in various dishes, but also as a medicine for healing wounds, as fuel for lamps and as cosmetics for the hair and skin in different cultures.
Olives grow best in warm temperatures, and cannot tolerate extreme climatic conditions. The Mediterranean region, owing to its mild climate, contains 98% of the olive harvest and 95% of the olive oil production in the world. Harvesting and processing of olives are carried out between November and March. Around 76% of the olives produced in Turkey are pressed for oil and the rest are reserved for table olives.
Olive oil is classified as “extra virgin”, “virgin”, “refined” and “riviera” (a blend of virgin and refined olive oil that is called “olive oil” in international standards) based on the means of production as well as the physical properties and organoleptic characteristics of the product. Due to the preferences of consumers who are less familiar with the natural taste of olive oil, some are also produced with added flavorings such as garlic, onion, nutmeg, fresh thyme, basil or bay leaves.
In international standards, table olives are classified as “green olives”, “olives turning color” and “black olives”. They are commercially produced in the forms of “stoned”, “stuffed” (with pimento, capers, etc.), “halved”, “sliced”, “paste” as well as “whole” olives. It is quite common in Turkey to start the day by having a rich breakfast including this nutritious food, which contains abundant calcium, iron and vitamin A. There are few countries in the world which have a consumption pattern of olives close to Turkey but according to one’s palate, olives can also be used in the preparation of various dishes. Olives are put in pizzas, salads and cooked dishes as an ingredient and/or eaten as an appetizer usually to accompany a drink.