Olive trees that grow in the wild are called “delice” in Turkish or “olea sylvestris” in Latin, and they are not the cultivar that we eat or press in our daily lives. In fact, eaten raw non-domesticated olives are poisonous. Research shows that the Delice wild tree was domesticated about 8,000 to 6,000 years ago in the Eastern Mediterranean (believed to be Crete in folk tales). From then on, this domesticated olive tree was planted all over the globe. The olives that we harvest today are the descendants of this tree. For the past couple thousand years olive oil has been used for trade, culinary, religious, and medicinal purposes.
Throughout history, olive trees were selectively bred for more yield as the olive oil demand surged with ever increasing population. With the start of the industrial revolution, high production became forefront and many unique tree varieties were lost due to having lesser yield.
In Turkey we have over 120 unique endemic cultivars and only a handful of them are dominating production. Sadly, Turkish producers are starting to import foreign seeds like Arbequina to enter competitions, because European olive varieties are proven among international judges and our endemic Mesopotamian/Mediterranean varieties are not. Our goal is to bring these wonderful endemic olive varieties onto the global stage and let them finally shine.