This article was written for Fethiye Times by Sian Midgley
It’s been hard not to notice that recently there seems to be a lot of locals bashing the living daylights out of trees or crawling around the floor throwing little round objects onto blankets – well, welcome to olive harvesting season.
I doubt I’m the only one who doesn’t know the full process of turning olives into something you dribble on your salad so I decided to pop up and see my friends, Maryanne and Umut, at their guesthouse just up the road in Kadıköy; Yeşil’s Kelebek Ev (Green’s Butterfly House), to see exactly what happens.
The Birth of Yeşil’s Kelebek Ev
The idea of the guesthouse came to fruition just after Maryanne and Umut tied the knot back in 2005. Umut’s great great grandfather was one of three nomadic farmer brothers who would wander with their flocks in the mountains in the summer then come down to the flatlands for the winter. After a number of years the three brothers decided to set down roots so picked a hillock each and built farmhouses.
The guesthouse now sits within the floorplan of an old burnt out barn on Umut’s great great grandfather’s land with his parents still living next door in the original farmhouse. The guesthouse itself comprises of three guest rooms (2 doubles, 1 twin) plus a self contained log cabin, a swimming pool and extensive land with a good assortment of fruit trees. If you don’t fancy spending the night there they also offer a delicious Turkish breakfast which you can then follow up with a few hours by their pool during the hot summer months.
But I Digress…Where Was I?
Oh yes, I remember…olives.
First of all, were you aware that green and black olives come from the same tree? The colour is simply determined by when you harvest them.
Green olives are usually harvested around September time. Black olives around November time – so that will be what you are seeing now.
All olives are picked from the ground before being picked from the trees which, as you can imagine, is backbreaking work. The picking can therefore take several months.
The tree dwelling olives are usually gently removed from the trees using a wide toothed rake, and dropped on to a mat to further soften them…newer trees can’t cope with being beaten with a stick and would sustain damage.
The green olives are then split one by one and soaked in water which is changed every day for ten days. The olives are then stored in salt water to preserve them. When wanted for eating they are drained and washed and then served in any number of ways with oil, herbs, lemon juice, garlic and so on. Individual families have different ways of doing this and add different spices etc to alter the taste…but like any good flavouring, this is rarely shared outside the family. This gives you the olives you find on the table while you wait for a meal or down a beer.
To make olive oil black olives are then sent to an olive factory where they get hot pressed. Around 6kg-7kg of olives make just one litre of olive oil. If they were cold pressed you would need many more.
Farmers get different rates for their crop each year with each kilo selling for anything between 2.5tl and 7tl, a small price considering how much work goes in to growing, tending and harvesting the olives.
The different olive oils are then determined by the amount of acidity in them. For example, anything with virtually no acidity is classed as Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Maryanne & Umut produce Virgin Olive Oil which has less than 0.8% acidity.
They are also proud of the fact that they do not spray their trees with any chemicals and, after just one more season, they will have been doing this long enough to be classed as legitimately organic – a word that can be bandied around far too easily nowadays.
Nothing Goes To Waste
Umut’s mother uses the sediment from the olive oil to make soap – she simply boils it, adds citric acid and scents, filters it and finally molds it.
Adding More Strings To Their Bow
If there are windy storms in April time when the olive blossoms are on the trees farmers will have no crops, therefore no income which is why the family then decided to diversify.
The family now all work on the farm together, with Umut’s brother Mutlu also caring for a flock of gorgeous sheep. Plus, along with harvesting olives and running the guesthouse, Maryanne and Umut also make seasonal jams and pickles which they sell from their home or can drop off in Fethiye when they pass through.
For more information about Yeşil’s Kelebek Ev and their products you can follow them on Facebook