By Umut Egitimci
Olive Oil Times Contributor | Reporting from Istanbul
Even as the world’s fourth biggest producer, the consumption of olive oil in Turkey may be less than other Mediterranean countries but the efforts are worthy. When it comes to creating an interest for olive oil, Balıkesir’s Burhaniye district sets an example for the domestic industry and beyond. Located in the Aegean region of Turkey, Burhaniye is a town and district of Balıkesir Province. The town’s rich history dates back to the ancient times and as of today it’s a small but nice town, mostly famous for its olive oil. And this Turkish town’s municipality hosted the 7th International Olive and Olive Oil Festival in the past days.
The three-day festival started with a great opening ceremony which took place in the town’s center called Cumhuriyet Meydanı (Republic Square). After the national anthem, Mayor Fikret Akova made a speech on the importance of this festival and thanked the participants. Folk dance performances followed by the local women with traditional costumes performing cross talk of old and funny poems as well as singing traditional songs. During the festival, there were olive oil producers presenting their best oils and a culinary competition where local women cooked traditional dishes with olive oil.
As one of the richest and oldest in the world, Turkish cuisine has a special category of “dishes made with olive oil.” The talented women of Burhaniye cooked these delicious dishes like Zeytinyağlı Yeşil Fasulye (string beans in olive oil), Imam Bayıldı (eggplant is cut and stuffed with onion, green pepper/ served cold), Zeytinyağlı Kuru Fasulye (haricot beans in olive oil), Zeytinyağlı Enginar (artichoke cooked with pieces of potatoes, carrots and peas) as well as different types of pastries called “börek”. It was not an easy competition and no matter who won it proved one thing: good olive oil enriches the flavor of food.
As a part of the festival, there were also exhibitons of photography, glassworks as well as ballet and folk dance performances and folk music concerts. There was even a taekwondo competition with an award ceremony. In addition to these festive and fun actitivities, the local chamber of commerce organized a panel on the olive oil industry and its benefits to the local economy.
It’s very well known that the Aegean coast of Turkey has a rich history of olive cultivation and since antiquity the region is famous for its finest quality of olive oils. But Burhaniye district in particular is considered to be one of the best regions in olive production which deserves recognition and appreciation. And in Burhaniye, after the hard work of olive picking and producing olive oil, there comes the time for celebration. Burhaniye Olive Oil festival is an intimate one compared with the large festivals around the world but it creates great joy for the town people. If you happen to visit this lovely town next winter, do not miss your chance to attend this wonderful event and share the taste of delicious local olives and olive oil.