Pomegranates in Turkey
Pomegranates, or 'nar' in Turkish, are widely recognised as a super food. They are rich in antioxidants and boast many medicinal benefits. Pomegranates have been eaten throughout history to boost health and wellbeing and in Turkey they are loved so much so that there are many beliefs surrounding them.
The Turks love for pomegranates
Turks love symbols, they also love superstitions, myths and designs with meaning. Perhaps the most well known of all Turkish symbols is the attractive blue amulet or 'nazar boncugu' said to ward off the evil eye and bring good luck. These can be found all over Turkey and are a popular souvenir.
Likewise, pomegranates hold iconographic importance in Turkey. Take a trip around Istanbul's Grand Bazaar and it's hard to miss the pottery pomegranates and ceramics or trinkets featuring pomegranate designs - you can even buy gold and silver jewellery in the shape of this popular fruit.
In Turkey and many of the Silk Road countries, the humble pomegranate is seen as far more than a fruit - it is seen as a symbol of fertility, of abundance, prosperity and health. Pomegranates are smashed on the floor or the juice handed out to guests at weddings to wish newlyweds well. The fruit is thrown on the doorstep of homes on December 31st to welcome in the New Year, and fresh pomegranate juice is often drunk after clenching a new business deal, on the birth of a baby, or simply to symbolise new beginnings.
About pomegranates in Turkey
Pomegranates originate from Persia (Iran), but they also grow all over Turkey. They are an attractive fruit with a distinct red exterior and bulb like shape. Only the central seeds, or 'arils', are edible - and they are a pain to free. You will often see Turks sat with a toothpick freeing seeds and nibbling at the fruit on their balconies and terraces. This works, but it's very time consuming. The real experts know the best way to free the arils is to chop the fruit in half and slap the hard skin in a downwards motion over a big bowl - far easier and more effective.
Each autumn, when pomegranates are at their best, you will see stalls spring up all over Turkey selling fresh juice in markets and on street corners. Pomegranates are grown throughout Turkey, especially in coastal regions around the Aegean and Mediterranean and tourist resorts like Dalyan and Side. Many properties in Turkey have pomegranate bushes in their gardens, the Turks believing the harvest will bring luck to their family home. Pomegranates are also incorporated in many Turkish dishes. The kernels are often found in salads, and a sweet and popular pomegranate molasses (syrup) is widely used by chefs to marinate meat or incorporated into sauces. If you are feeling hungry and after a snack, a little pomegranate sauce comes as the norm with your Turkish çiğ köfte - the tasty vegetarian lentil patties rolled up in a flatbread with lemon and parsley. A drizzle of nar syrup with your lamb kebab also takes the taste to a whole new level!
Health benefits of pomegranates
The more you research pomegranates, the more you realise why we should all be eating or drinking their juice. Pomegranates are well known for their health benefits. The bright red arils are packed full of fibre and nutrients and a great source of vitamins C and K. But, the main health benefit to eating pomegranates lies in the polyphenols they contain - the powerful antioxidants that can help with arthritis, keep LDL bad cholesterol under control, aid digestion, and help fight heart disease and cancer. Pomegranates pack a powerful punch - it's even believed that a daily glass of pomegranate juice can extend your life and keep you young!
If you would like to know more about food in Turkey, please see the Turkey Homes Blog.