City officials in İstanbul have been actively trying for some time to revive the Ottoman tradition of tulips for decorating İstanbul streets, but the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality has even more ambitious plans.
The municipality has launched three projects based on tulip cultivation that aim to use the flower for a variety of purposes.
The tulip, which is native to Turkey, is one of the most recognized plants due to its historical significance. Not only was it used as an ingredient in some medicines to cure illnesses like heart disease in the past, but it is also the flower that gave its name to the Ottoman period “Tulip Era” of 1718-1730.
Having various vivid colors that are attractive to the eye, the tulip also holds great importance for the municipality as it organizes the International Tulip Festival every April when the plant beautifies streets and various locations in the city.
As the administrative body that started the festival, the municipality has long sought ways to contribute to better tulip cultivation, resulting in the initiation of three projects.
One was launched in 2012 by Erciyes University and the municipality’s Park and Garden Directorate to produce natural food coloring. Tulip petals will be used to make natural food coloring, giving people who cultivate and sell tulips an additional source of income. Red, yellow, purple and pink tulips will be grown to manufacture natural food coloring.
Research still has yet to be conducted to determine whether tulips are completely safe for human consumption in food products. For the mass production of natural food coloring made from tulip petals, trials have also been carried out in the Anatolian province of Konya. Coloring will be obtained from tulips cultivated in the, southeastern province of Adıyaman, the Marmara province of Sakarya and the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa. Villagers growing the flower are expected to realize an extra 25 percent in income with the mass production of the food coloring substance over the course of the project.
Natural food coloring that can be used in a variety of ways is going to be introduced in a program after its mass production is completed. Turkish delight, cakes and perfumes in which there is natural food coloring made from tulips are to be offered to the participants in a presentation.
Another project, “Ters Lale Projesi” (Kaiser’s Crown Project), to save endangered tulip species such as Kaiser’s crown from extinction has been launched by Van Yüzüncü Yıl University and the directorate.
Villagers who are going to cultivate specific types of tulips that are on the verge of extinction are to be educated about the flower production process; then the seeds of the plants are going to be introduced into the market. The project will contribute to the rural development of Turkey by helping villagers to participate in the cultivation of the plant. In the long term, the project also aims to eventually export the plant to other countries. The Kaiser’s Crown Project is expected to bear fruit within two years.
New tulip species will be produced by crossbreeding existing species, and tulip cultivation techniques are going to be improved in another project that started in 2010 with contributions from Ege and Van universities. Science, Industry and Technology Ministry is also contributing to the project launched by the directorate.
Recently, the project started to produce results as seeds of new hybrid tulip species have been obtained. Bulbs of the new species of tulips developed by the project are going to be planted in various locations in İstanbul for the Eighth International Tulip Festival of 2013.
Tulip producers have been educated by the municipality about environmental issues and the techniques of cultivating the plant so as to minimize the harm caused to the environment over the course of growing the plant.