By its agricultural tradition associated with a policy of prospection, acclimatization and improvement of the plants, Tunisia is rich in phytogenetic resources for the majority of the cultivated species on its territory.
These resources constitute diverse indigenous materials which represent a true inheritance for the future and whose protection constitutes one of the basic elements in the food security management.
Tunisia, having been the crossroads of many civilizations, the basis for trade exchange between the East, Africa and Europe and the migration of the Andalusians, inherited -from these flows- a rich olive-growing genetic inheritance.
Besides these two principal varieties of oil: Chemléli and Chetoui, many works of prospection and characterization (Grati Kamoun, 2007, Grati Kamoun and Khlih, 2004, Grati Kamoun and Khlih, 2001) showed that the Tunisian olive grove enjoys a remarkable richness of variety.
Indeed, the cultivars Oueslati, Zalmati, Zarrazi, Chemchali, Jerboui, Fakhari, Toffehi, Chemléli Jerba, Tounsi, Chemchéli Zarzis, Marsaline, Sayali and Jemri represent some examples of the varieties offered by the Tunisian olive grove
The identification of these varieties through their fruit pomological characteristics such us those related to the quality of the olive oil confirmed this richness and highlighted an important genetic diversity.
Moreover, the evaluation of the major and minor compounds of the olive oil made it possible to notice quite interesting characteristics (lipogenèse, acidity, phenolic compounds and oxidation stability) of certain varieties which, unfortunately, aren’t widespread and insufficiently exploited in the olive-growing production in Tunisia.
Those two principal varieties of Tunisian olive-growing were selected by our ancestors because of their interesting characteristics. Indeed, Chemléli Sfax, a vigorous tree, which is productive and resistant to the arid conditions of the region, has fruity oil mainly at the start of the harvest period with pleasant flavours of green almond and important biological values since it also has important contents of sterols.
Moreover, Chetoui, the second principal variety of olive-tree in Tunisia gives a fruity oil with green almond flavours and contains a very high phenolic compound (>300 ppm) which guarantees to this variety a stability against high levels of oxidation.