It’s all fıstık to me
We have found that sugar is often accompanied by nuts in Turkey, and they are as important as each other in the cuisine. Everyone knows which region grows the best of each kind of nut, and the nuts are often named after these places. We managed to visit several of them.
So Antep fıstığı are pistachios – the dry, gentle hills around Gaziantep being covered with grove after grove of trees producing the best, greenest, juiciest, tastiest pistachios in all of Turkey, the majority of which seem to end up inside sticky baklava, for which Gaziantep is also justly famous.
Çam fıstığı, not to be confused with Antep fıstığı, are pine nuts, coming from the special pine trees along the Aegean, left by the ancient Romans, who apparently never went anywhere without their supply of pine nuts. How sensible.
The best fındık (hazelnuts) are found along the east Black Sea coast, particularly around Giresun, where we spent a day admiring the banks of bright green hazelnut trees and plump sacks of their pert little nuts. Giresun is the self-proclaimed hazelnut capital of the world and advertises its status with giant hazelnut statues. Unlike tea, hazelnuts have been grown here for centuries, since at least 2300 years ago. Turkey is in fact the biggest producer of hazelnuts in the world, contributing 75% of the total supply, which provides a livelihood, directly or indirectly, for four million people in the Black Sea region. Chomp on that for a good food fact.
Walnuts (ceviz) and almonds (badem) are also common, found frequently on the breakfast table, incorporated into savoury or sweet dishes, or encased in some kind of sweet, sticky paste and sold as a snack “sausage” (sucuk) from market stalls. While Turkey is not immune to the snacking culture of crisps and chocolate bars, you’re more likely to find large sacks of nuts and dried fruit in the markets for passers-by to munch on.
It’s easy to get your nuts confused. Ask for an ‘Indian walnut’ and you’ll get a coconut, or an ‘American pistachio’ and you’ll get peanuts. And don’t be put off if somebody calls you a hazelnut – it means they think you’re cute!
Read about the other flavours of Turkey we enjoyed…