Baa is an Ossetian, born in Turkey and currently living in Austria. Vacationing in Istanbul, she checks out markets to hunt down delicious greens. A software developer with a soft spot for academic research in that field, an avid knitter (baahar.etsy.com) and reader, she makes time to cook meals with real food and advocates a lifestyle of moderation so that you can enjoy the foods you love longer. You can also find her on Pinterest and Twitter.
Farmers Market Update: Istanbul
Istanbul. An overly satiated city of 13 million. There are several ways fresh and local produce finds its way to us in this chaotic but wonderful city: weekly markets in each district, produce shops on almost every street, and finally street vendors who walk around with their carts and shout. You can hear them from afar, with their intriguing calls, because they distort the words to make their call sound… better? harmonious? Beside the occasional riddle as to what they are actually selling, they provide people with top-notch service. You can lower down a basket from your window with the money, shout your order and get your goods without even leaving your apartment.
The district markets are traditionally built every week in some designated streets of the district. Sellers come the night before and start building up their stands. In the morning, you find the streets transformed into a tent labyrinth of produce and all kinds of goods, from clothing to toys and kitchenware.
Even though most of the sellers at district markets are re-sellers, you can always find some people who bring in the produce from their garden or small farm. Especially, their dainty parsley and mint smell and taste delicious. It makes you want to start grazing right there.
Recently, organic labeled food became a trend here and several markets emerged. The ecologic market that we specially frequent to buy our weekly greens for breakfast, has a few locations spread over Istanbul. The market in Şişli takes place outdoors, under a designated roofed-area every Saturday. Beside the stands that sell produce, there are also several food stands where women make traditional pastries (gözleme) filled with cheese and spinach or parsley. In Turkey, there is always a tea vendor nearby. So, get a gözleme and some black tea and enjoy a nice lunch out.
Spinach is always high on my to-buy list. It is amazing how much the taste can differ compared to the bland, frozen spinach I have to buy in Austria. These crisp, small spinach leaves can be easily eaten raw, ideal to put into a salad.
Artichokes are in season now and are especially promoted for liver health. They are a bit expensive though, 2.5 USD a piece. The bigger ones are being holed out by the sellers and sold in plastic bags filled with lemon+water to preserve the color. Most people cook them topped with peas, cubed carrots and potatoes. When I am too lazy to cook them, I eat them simply raw. The smaller ones are better purchased and cooked whole.
Kale and chard are in season too. Turkish people buy kale mostly to make sarma, where a minced meat or vegetarian filling is wrapped up with these leaves. As a lazy cook, I would consider making that dish only for guests or on special occasions. For everyday use, it is enough for me to chop them up and cook with some olive oil, or sometimes to use it as a pastry filling (börek) together with cheese.
Unfortunately, summer fruits are not out yet. I cannot wait to see the market in full bloom and color when they do. However, it is time for unripe plums. Delicious, green, sour, juicy plums that Turks love to eat with salt. I love them as they are. At least the first mulberries are out to bring some more color into the market.
This week I also discovered these sorrel leaves (Kuzukulağı) that taste like lemon. Together with ramps that taste like garlic, they go in every salad I make now.
Here you can find a lot more than fresh produce. Beside the usual suspects like olives, cheese and eggs there are also several stands with honey, molasses and tahini.
I am planning to explore more of the markets around here. Turkey is full of herbs and vegetables that grow in the wild and come out only once a year––for the people who know to look for them, of course. Every market seems to have another thing to be discovered. Exciting times!
What did you find at the farmers market this week?
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