The Long and Unique History of the Ottoman Strawberry
Over the years, Turkey has become one of the global leaders for the production and consumption of strawberries with its many varieties, specific production sites and methods. Although the fruit is highly sensitive to environmental changes, the country is known to present suitable ecological conditions and great potential for strawberry production. Moreover, in many areas, the use of favourable agricultural technologies allows soilless grown strawberries to be produced throughout the whole year, and not only during spring and summer months.
Strawberries (Fragaria x ananassa Duch) in Turkey have early origins as their history goes back to the Ottoman times. In fact, although their production is mainly concentrated in the Mediterranean areas around the Marmara and Aegean Seas, the West Black Sea Region of Anatolia (specifically, Karadeniz Eregli) offers a unique species known as the Ottoman strawberry. Its particularity presents distinguishable characteristics that indicative of its high quality. These refers to their small and oval size, light pink colour which is said to derive from the evening sun, their rich aroma and sugar content (fructose, glucose and sucrose). The latter plays an important role in the flavour, juicy texture and energy source. It is said that the strawberry was gifted to the grand vizier, Halil Pasha because of its beautiful flower and was then cultivated in the special Eregli grounds where the distinct flavour is accentuated.
Other important factors that emphasise the sweet taste and quality of the Ottoman strawberry include the specific planting process which requires particular attention, whereby its delicacy, maturity and ripeness levels make its production limited and not on a commercial scale. Today, Turkey’s main objective is to preserve, if not to increase, the productivity and quality of the strawberry by paying close attention to making investments towards ‘protected cultivation’. Such initiatives target value-added activities directed towards a more sustainable and controlled system which offers efficient and larger produce as well as healthier offerings. The symbol of the Ottoman strawberry is recognised and celebrated on a yearly basis with a festival that takes place in the Eregli area. The product is in high demand and is part of many Turkish recipes thanks to its significant antioxidant and bio-resource nutrients. A beloved Turkish recipe is the magnolia, a fresh and refine-tasted dessert especially consumed during family reunions and summer days. As the harvest season will begin shortly, Ottoman strawberries can be enjoyed by many not only through its direct consumption as a fresh fruit, but also through the processing of the product to make juices, jams, ice-cream, and liquor.