White cube houses and turquoise-blue bays – that’s how you know
the lively seaside resort on the Turkish Aegean coast. However, hardly any holidaymakers know the colorful side of Bodrum: in December and January, when grey, white and brown tones predominate in other regions, here you can revel in rich dark green and orange in all shades of color!
On the way from Bitez village to the beach, stony olive and carob trees, poplars, eucalyptus trees and holm oaks form green tunnels. The paths here are dim and mysterious even in broad daylight, when the sunlight only penetrates the canopy here and there.
If you stroll through this green labyrinth, it is hard to believe that you are only a few hundred meters away from the main street with its modern shopping centers and commercial buildings.
The bushes by the side of the path glow yellow, then orange behind the dark green leaves – branches bend under the weight of round oranges, magnificent lemons, but above all thousands of mandarins! Welcome to the famous mandarin orchards of the Bodrum Peninsula.
If you can’t resist this inviting sight and reach for a mandarin, you will be rewarded with an even more stimulating scent – especially if you get a real Bodrum mandarin!
Three varieties of mandarin are grown in Bodrum: the seedless satsuma can be picked from mid-October, followed at the end of November by the aromatic clementine with its bright orange skin, and the crowning glory ripens at the beginning of December: the fragrant Bodrum mandarin.
Small to medium-sized, a little flat, the skin more yellowish than orange – this is how unspectacular the queen of mandarins looks. But as soon as the skin is broken open, the essential oils release their full aroma. Is it the meltemi – the thermal wind that cools the citrus orchards on hot summer days – the chalky soil, the microclimate that the Bodrum Peninsula is blessed with, or is it a combination of all these ingredients that gives the Bodrum mandarin its incomparable flavor? In any case, the Bodrum mandarin grows better here than anywhere else, which was confirmed by the Turkish Patent Office in 2012. Since then, “Bodrum mandarin” has been a protected geographical indication and thus has the same legal status as the Spreewald cucumber, for example.
Despite this international recognition, the Bodrum mandarin is currently under pressure from several sides: the export of Bodrum mandarins has come to a standstill with the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, once the most important customer. Changing consumer habits have also led to a considerable reduction in demand in Germany, as the Bodrum mandarin has the disadvantage over other mandarin varieties that there are 3-4 seeds in each column. And finally, the plains that gently slope down to the bays of the peninsula, where the mandarin gardens are located, have become valuable building land for hotels and residential complexes.
It takes a certain amount of idealism to continue tending the citrus orchards inherited from your fathers, even though you can no longer make a fortune from the harvest.
Erman Aras, son of Ömer Aras, once the largest mandarin grower on the peninsula, who planted over 4000 trees himself, made his father promise on his deathbed not to sell any of his gardens and to look after the mandarins full-time. A real challenge for the physicist and long-standing tourism entrepreneur, who was educated at an elite university (with mandarin money!).
We let him tell us how he took on this challenge with ingenuity, discipline and joy. The Bodrum Yadigarı factory is located on the old, winding road from the village of Ortakent to the coast, on the edge of the largest garden that Erman inherited from his father. A name with a program: Yadigar was not only the name of his mother, but also means ‘souvenir, memento’ – a tradition is continued here.
In the decades between 1950 and 1970, when the mandarin trade was booming, the precious cargo was carried to the coast on camelback, from where it was loaded onto the deck of a wooden freighter from the Black Sea in rowing boats and shipped to Istanbul. Bodrum Yadigarı continues this tradition by sending gift boxes containing 3, 6 or 9 kg of freshly picked mandarins by courier service to any address in Turkey between the end of November and the end of February.
By the way: the mandarins from Bodrum Yadigarı are untreated and have been grown organically for years, without the addition of any pesticides or artificial fertilizers.
Delicious mandarin products
In view of the rich harvest (between 75 and 95 tons annually), Erman had to come up with even more: his wife Filiz, an enthusiastic cook, began experimenting with jams and preserves. They should be light and fruity, not sugar-soaked calorie bombs. Finally, she gave up sugar altogether and used apple concentrate instead. An ingenious solution – delicious and healthy!
In addition to mandarins, the other delicacies from the citrus orchard are of course also processed: Oranges, lemons, bitter oranges and bergamot. For those with a sweet tooth, we recommend lokum made from mandarin juice. Bodrum Yadigarı also produces the usually extremely sweet “Turkish Delight” without added sugar (replaced by date extract). Instead of powdered sugar, which traditionally prevents the fruit gum cubes from sticking together, a flour made from dried tangerine peel is used. The unmistakable aroma of the Bodrum mandarin is captured in dried fruit potato chips as well as in a sophisticated mandarin sorbet.
The beguiling scent of the Bodrum mandarin is virtually predestined for the production of refreshing scented waters, which are extremely popular with Turks. And so it is probably only a matter of time before Bodrum Yadigarı launches its own mandarin “Kolonya” (named after its great role model, cologne). The experiments are certainly promising, Erman tells me.
After my visit to the factory, I am convinced that the range of innovative organic mandarin products will continue to expand in the coming years. There is certainly no lack of material and creative drive!
Even if the enjoyment of ripe Bodrum mandarins is only reserved for winter visitors, there is one consolation for summer tourists: the still small, green Bodrum mandarins are the perfect ingredient for a refreshing gin and tonic – or the delicious vodka-based “Silencio cocktail” that we serve at the
Limon Café in Gümüslük
love so much.
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