In Western Turkey, wide swathes of the Anatolian coastline along the Aegean Sea are covered in wild olive trees. Over the centuries, humans have grafted, managed and shaped these trees, giving rise to unique habitats in which wildlife and olive-oil production co-exist harmoniously. Local families own the land and oversee the trees and the olive harvest, while the pasture on which they grow is managed according to a complex co-management system known as Orfene.
To allow the co-existence between livestock grazing and this unusual kind of olive cultivation, based exclusively on grafted wild trees, the fields are not irrigated and the use of chemical fertilizers and plant protection products is forbidden. The olive groves cannot be fenced in because they are used for grazing by livestock as well as wild animals. This co-management system has led to the formation of extraordinary landscapes and ecosystems rich in biodiversity.
The wild trees are grafted with the Memecik olive variety (in the Menteşe mountains) and the Erkence variety (in the Kızıldağ mountains). The harvest takes place between the middle of October and the end of November and must meet specific criteria. The olives can only be picked by hand or using equipment that does not damage the fruit; the use of mechanical trunk shakers is forbidden. The olives must be pressed no later than 24 hours after the harvest.
The resulting oil has an aroma of fresh hazelnuts, unripe fruit and mint, with pleasant herbaceous notes. Sweet and mild on the palate, it has a gentle chicory-like bitterness and a slightly spicy finish.
The indigenous olive-growing landscapes of the Aegean are increasingly at risk due to growing building speculation, grandiose infrastructure projects and pressure from intensive olive cultivation, based on modern plantations—fenced and irrigated, with productive varieties and a focus on maximizing yields.
The Presidium has been established to protect this unique landscape, helping the producers to obtain a high-quality extra-virgin olive oil that reflects the richness of the land and its history. Good practices and better equipment will be introduced to improve the harvest, storage and transport of the olives. Work will also be done to characterize and preserve the local olive biodiversity, including through the introduction of better pruning and grafting techniques, to improve the packaging and promotion of the oil and to raise local and international awareness about the indigenous landscapes and the importance of safeguarding them. So far the Presidium unites two communities (in the Menteşe and Kızıldağ mountains), but in the future it could potentially become transnational, involving producers and landscapes on both sides of the Aegean.
The Presidium currently involves two distinct production zones:
1) Kızılgüney village, in the Menteşe mountains, between Muğla and Aydın provinces
2) Orhanlı village, in the Kızıldağ mountains, Izmir province