Lisa Munniksma

freelance writing, editing, farming, travel

Hyper-local fruit in Turkey

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My first taste of prickly pear cactus now has me wanting to live somewhere that I can grow it myself.

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!

I was sad that the bananas aren't ripe yet but think it's cool that they grow here anyway.

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.

Figs fresh from the tree are my new favorite fruit!

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.

4 Comments

  1. Wonderful descriptions! It reminded me of eating the fruit of the cacao in Costa Rica. We were traveling in a remote area with the mayor who was providing transportation for two of us and all our luggage in a truck. He stopped to pick a fresh cacao…green exterior with a fleshy peach-like interior. Even though chocolate is made from the seeds or beans, I was thinking chocolate as I prepared to take a bite …only to be totally surprised by the sweet fruity taste! Thank you for including the Turkish translation. Your adventures sound wonderful…wish I could join you for a short time. Deb

  2. What a fantastic mix of fruits Turkey has! I guess I’m just naive, but I didn’t realize how tropical Turkey is. I hope you are around long enough to try a fresh banana from the tree. Yum!

  3. Ooh! You’d love bacon-wrapped figs (if you like bacon, that is)! Good Foods has figs. They’re a bit pricey and, obviously, not as fresh as you had them, but it’s a delicious treat!

  4. good experience you had in Turkey , i like it and like to do it me too , may be you can help or give me some seasonal fruit picking in Turkey or you send me directly where you were working !! waiting for your help , take care . Said

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