The global helping the local

The global helping the local

The global helping the local

Finike oranges are ideal for Claudia Roden’s famous Middle Eastern flourless, whole orange cake.

Phoenicians did not have a chance to taste oranges, but today’s Finike, which was once home to the ancient civilization, is now famous for its bright, sunny globes. The oranges as we knew today arrived from China via the Portuguese in the 16th century. It took some time for the orange to become abundant and popular, but eventually they made it perfectly on home the Mediterranean shores of Anatolia.

The figs of Aydın and the raisins of the Aegean region have always been native to this land, and both have been world-famous since antiquity under the name of Smyrna – a reference to the port of Izmir, their historical place of export. Few know that Turkey is the number-one hazelnut-growing country in the world – perhaps except for the tight-lipped praline and chocolate manufacturers of Europe who prefer to keep it a secret for themselves. All these treasures have been registered with a geographical indication since 1995, but only now can we find them on the shelves of a wholesale mega-market store.

The geographical indication is a sign used on goods that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities, reputation or characteristics that are essentially related to a particular location or region. Most commonly, a geographical indication includes the name of the place of origin of the goods. Agricultural products typically have qualities that derive from their place of production and are influenced by specific local factors, such as climate and soil. Whether a sign is recognized as a geographical indication is a matter of national law. Geographical indications may be used for a wide variety of products, whether natural, agricultural or manufactured.

The main purpose of using this system is to separate the authentic products from the fake local products, which are produced by illicit commercial players in market. The geographical indication system helps to protect the original territorial products to the benefit of both producers and customers. All these products are also unique products that come from different geographical regions and are produced or harvested with historical know-how or coming from heirloom seeds or plants. The geographical indication system was first developed in France as early as the 14th century.

Unfortunately, this concept could not be applied in Turkey until 1995, and only after the announcement of a law regarding GI products were a few local specialties registered. However, since then, it has not been possible to implement a real, working control system in the Turkish food market.

Geographical Indication Sign project

In an age of a mass market system invading our cities, the link between the customer and the producer is becoming more and more detached. Even restaurateurs, caterers and neighborhood grocery stores have little choice but to get their provisions from big wholesale markets. Consequently, industrialized products are replacing artisanal produce, leaving little choice for customers to reach traditional artisanal products. This pattern is rapidly becoming the general norm as a natural consequence of heavy urbanization. While the shift to industrialized produce seems to be inevitable, there is also a rising interest for the good-old traditional product. This creates an illicit market for faux-products of dubious quality. Traditional small producers have difficulty in getting their products to meet the specifications and requirements of hyper markets, while consumers find it hard to pay inflated prices due to multifarious layers of profit-added transport, retail agents and supermarkets.

There is also another facet to this issue. Traditional products are much in demand and very tasty, but not necessarily safe. Most local products suffer from being contaminated or affected with aflatoxin or hydroxymethyl furfurol formation. All these factors make it hard for customers to differentiate between the good and the bad.

Defending farmers and supporting social responsibility projects are not the usual modus operandi of
hyper-big wholesale stores, but there seems to be a reverse in the unfortunate fate of local artisanal producers. Now a global wholesales store in Turkey is giving a helping hand to the producers of products with the geographical indication sign. Metro Cash & Carry has launched a project to give visibility to these products, directly supporting local producers. Already, 42 products with the Geographical Indication Sign are available on market shelves. So far, the Turkish Patent Institute has registered 176 products, so it can be said a good portion of them is included in the project. It is truly revealing to see a global hand reach in for the defenseless local; now it is the consumer’s turn to search for the authentic local!

Bite of the week

Recipe of the Week: Finike oranges are ideal for Claudia Roden’s famous Middle Eastern flourless, whole orange cake. Be sure that the oranges you choose are not waxed or wash under hot water. Boil two whole oranges with enough water to cover in a covered pot for about two hours or until very tender. Leave to cool and then quarter them to remove the pips. Whizz the rest, pulp and peel, in a food processor. Beat six eggs in a large bowl until creamy. Add 225 g sugar and continue to beat until well mixed. Add 250 g ground almonds, orange puree and one tsp baking powder, mix thoroughly. Preheat oven to 180°C. Pour the cake batter into a buttered and floured cake tin, with a removable base if possible. Bake for about one hour, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the tin before turning out. Serve with sliced strawberries and oranges with cream or thick strained yogurt.

Fork of the Week: For a true, local Anatolian feast, stock your larder with products with the geographical indication label from Metro Cash & Carry. My favorites are hazelnuts from Giresun, garlic from Taşköprü, olives from Edremit and olive oil from Ayvalık. The most interesting of all is Zile pekmezi, a special grape molasses which comes as a foamy sticky paste that can be served as honey or jam for breakfast, but can also be used creatively in a dessert plate.

Cork of the Week: Though not geographically indicated, the market also stores various local soda pops, which are so nostalgic for many of a certain older age. These tastes are pre-coke era in Turkey, so look for Niğde Gazozu or Ankara Gazozu. Note that the market also has a policy of supporting local wine producers, so they stock wines of most small boutique wineries.