A good Turkish meal ends with fresh fruit, often artfully presented in slices and wedges on the plate. You might get kiwis, strawberries, oranges, apples or any number of stone fruit when in season. But apart from this occasional appearance, fresh fruit is surprisingly hard to find. I could suppose that this is due to the long history and widespread custom of preserving fruit so it can be enjoyed all year, a taste for which the sweet-toothed Turks maintain to this day in cities and villages alike.
So, while we never saw a bunch of fresh grapes on the table, we did eat plenty of raisins, sold among numerous other dried fruits out of big sacks in every street market we found. And we enjoyed more than our fair share of grape molasses (pekmez) and wine.
Pekmez and wine are very well made in Cappadocia, which has excellent soil for grapes and a long history of making both products, the ratio of one to the other depending on the prevailing religious power. While once, long ago, everyone (especially the Byzantine monks it seems) was making wine, and then this became all but impossible, now you can find both. But don’t assume anything. On asking an old man tending his small vineyard neatly laid out in the red soil up among a particularly dramatic (i.e. phallic) set of ‘fairy chimneys’ if they were for wine, he threw his head back in shocked disagreement and promptly put me in my place – “Of course not – for pekmez!”
And while the only fresh mulberries (dut) we managed to get were the ones we swiped ourselves from the trees growing all over the place, we did eat more than our fair share of the dried, sweeter white ones and drink a few cups of delicious juice squeezed from the sharper red ones. Juices, infusions and şerbets are still sold on the streets of the more traditional towns like Şanlıurfa and Gaziantep by men walking round with heavy brass casks of whatever nectar strapped to their backs, from which they dispense glassfuls for customers via a siphon into their (er, communal) glasses carried on a tray at the front suspended from their neck. They make quite a sight and it’s hard to refuse a shot of whatever potion they’re selling (usually marketed by health benefits – mulberry juice has antibiotic properties apparently).
The şerbet is a whole fascinating story in itself
And let’s not forget the 23 different types of fruit preserve we had for breakfast at Zelis Farmhouse.
Read about the other flavours of Turkey we enjoyed…