By its agricultural tradition associated with a policy of prospection, acclimatization and improvement of plants, Tunisia, rich in phytogenetic resources, has been able to protect its agricultural heritage, notably by preserving several varieties grown on its territory. These resources constitute diverse indigenous materials which represent a source of richness for the future and whose recognition is one of the essential levers for the olive sector development.
Besides the two main varieties of oil (Chemleli and Chetoui), several prospecting and characterization works demonstrated that the Tunisian olive grove is distinguished by a remarkable varietal richness.
Indeed, the cultivars Oueslati, Zalmati, Zarrazi, Jerboui, Fakhari, Toffehi, Jerba, Tounsi, Chemcheli, Zarzis, Marsaline, Sayali and Jemri represent some examples of the varieties offered by the local olive plantations.
The identification and classification of the autochthon varieties through their pomological characteristics testify the existence of an important genetic variability. Moreover, this richness is recognizable through the study of physicochemical and sensory properties.
Besides, the evaluation of olive oil major and minor compounds (Lipogenesis, acidic composition, Phenolic compounds and oxidation stability) made it possible to notice the qualities of certain varieties which, unfortunately, are not wide-spread and sufficiently exploited in the Tunisian olive oil sector.
The two main varieties of oil were selected by our ancestors because of their unique and identifiable properties. In fact, Chemleli which comes from a vigorous tree, productive and resistant to arid conditions, gives a fruity olive oil that is not too bitter with pleasant flavors of green almond especially at the beginning of the harvest. Particularly widespread in Sfax, its biological value is important seeing that it guarantees high levels of sterols.
Otherwise, the variety Chetoui gives bitter oil with intense aromas of green almond. It also contains high levels of phenolic compounds (> 300 ppm) thereby guaranteeing stability against oxidation.