Of the seven volunteers who were on this farm when I arrived, all but one spoke fluent English. Eray, one of the native Turks among us, speaks about twice as much English as I do Turkish. (But the rate at which he picks up English is far better than me learning Turkish!) It’s fun but also sometimes frustrating for all of us to try to communicate.
One afternoon, we were all laying around—literally. Six of us commandeered one of the sunbeds for a few hours—and Eray decided we needed to go fruit picking. Armed with my pocket knife and Turkish phrasebook,we went on an awesome tour of the fruit growing around the farm.
We started with something easy: oranges (portakal in Turkish). I’ve eaten oranges straight off the tree in Florida, so I knew what to expect and wasn’t at all disappointed. I’ve been on a strange orange kick lately, so this was good! The ripe fruits were all the way at the top of the tree, making getting them down a challenge. I actually tried shaking them down the day before—it’s a good thing my Turkish guide is tall and could reach with some minor branch modifications.
Next was a total surprise: prickly pear cactus. I know he’s picked these before, so why Eray decided to grab one with his bare hands, I don’t know, but after some cactus-spine extractions, we were eating orange-fleshed, sweet, somewhat-mushy fruit with small crunchy seeds. These don’t grow in Kentucky, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never eaten one before. I love it!
From the cacti along the road, we lumbered through some brush behind the tents on the farm for me to gawk at a banana tree (muz in Turkish). The fruit wasn’t yet ripe, so no bananas for me, but I was happy to just see the tree. Again, no bananas grow in Kentucky, and I don’t think I’ve seen a banana tree in “real life” before.
To recover from my inedible-banana disappointment, the next stop was the fig tree. Figs (incir in Turkish) are hands-down my new favorite fruit. I’ve had dried figs before, but I don’t think I’ve ever had fresh figs, and certainly never figs fresh from the branch–ripe ones all the way at the top, requiring Eray’s fig-tree-climbing skills. They’re custardy with little crunchy seeds. Cok güzel!
Pomegranates (nar in Turkish) are just coming into season here, so the fruits we found in the orchard were not totally ripe but tasty anyway. I’ve had grocery-story pomegranates and pomegranate juice, but, again, eating the fruit straight from the tree was something else.
The last stop was wild blackberries (böğürtlen in Turkish), a nice, familiar fruit that I simply didn’t realize was growing a few hundred yards from the house. Now no blackberry is safe on this farm!
I came back to work completely stuffed on foraged fruits and so thrilled for the new-foods experience (and for Eray putting himself in harm’s way to stuff me with fruit).
To add to my Turkey fruit experience, on a hike the next day, a fellow hiker introduced me to carob bean. This is the fruit that carob and carob syrup is made from. You eat the whole thing and spit out the seeds. The long, brown, leathery bean pod reminded me a little of a dried-fruit roll, if dried-fruit rolls had sweet, thick-syrupy insides. It was a nice burst of energy and a great food to find along the trail.