Sarı Ulak Olive

Ark of taste
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The city of Tarsus, which lies at the western edge of the Çukurova plain about 20 kilometers from the Mediterranean Sea, has a history that stretches back 6,000 years. During Roman times, it was the capital of the province of Cilicia. The discovery of olive mills and presses at archaeological sites shows that Cilician communities produced olive oil, and writings from the Hittite Empire, which reached its peak around 1300 BC, also mention olive cultivation and oil production. Among the olive varieties that originated around Tarsus, the sarı ulak is particularly well known for its high quality. There is still at least one sarı ulak tree that is 1,000 years old, indicating that the variety has likely existed for well over a millennium. Today, there are over half a million sarı ulak trees, and most of them are more than 100 years old; they grow from Gülnar (about 170 kilometers southwest of Tarsus) to Kozan (about 100 km northeast of Tarsus), primarily in the foothills of the Taurus mountains.

Sarı ulak olive trees have strong wood and an impressive structure with a large crown. They are resistant to high temperatures (but easily damaged by cold) and do not require much water. This variety exhibits periodicity, meaning that the trees do not usually produce a full crop of fruit every year. Harvest takes place between September and November. The olives themselves are medium-sized with an elongated cylindrical shape and rounded tip. Though most often used for green table olives, the sarı ulak variety can also yield relatively large quantities of high-quality oil. Sarı ulak oil is rich in polyphenols, lightly bitter and distinctly pungent, and has a delicate aroma of fresh-cut grass.

Unfortunately, despite producing olives of excellent quality and being well adapted to the local climate, the sarı ulak variety, which only accounts for 6% of the olive trees in Turkey’s Mediterranean Region, is declining; this is mostly due to the introduction of the more productive Gemlik variety. Gemlik olives are originally from the Marmara Region, and therefore not well suited to the high temperatures of the Mediterranean Region—when grown here, they require irrigation. However, the Ministry of Agriculture is promoting this variety throughout Turkey and subsidizes Gemlik saplings, so many farmers around Tarsus have stopped cultivating sarı ulak olives.

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Akdeniz Bölgesi

Production area:Tarsus