Market day – Thursday

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A friend of mine recently commented that although I am living in both the city and the garden, our city life is underrepresented in these posts. Of course, I began writing here when I was only living in the garden, and it has remained my focus but I see now that it is quite true that as a portrait of our daily lives, this blog is fairly unbalanced. This month is as good a chance as any to rectify that, and I wanted to start out by profiling one of the weekly markets that I visit.

I would love to say that we grow all of our own food but sadly that is not the case (although it is our objective). For the time being, then, I visit the weekly vegetable markets around town to fill in the gaps. When Ali joined me in China way back in 2001, he was surprised that there was a daily vegetable market outside the university gates. It ran from about 5 to 730, and was frequented mostly by the neighborhood retirees. I used to go out and do Tai Chi at 530 with a group of retired teachers, and then we would all head out the gate to peruse the market. The predawn hours in Harbin were the domain of the elderly, lining up to buy milk from a man on a tractor, or haggling with the doufu-sheet man, selling his wares off the back of a motorcycle. In the winter months, vegetables were displayed under thick cotton quits to keep them from freezing, or else inside styrofoam coolers.

When I entered the Thursday market in our old neighborhood of Sirinyali, I was struck by how fresh and lively everything looked. Here in Antalya, it is not the cold that zaps produce, but the heat. All summer long, the veg look beleaguered and parched. Now, with a few good rain storms under our belts and temperatures barely lifting out of the 80s, there seems to be a collective sigh of relief and feeling of weightlessness. And there is so much great veg to be had!

I apologise for the photos — I know they aren’t great. I was using my phone, and if you can believe it the memory was all used up (I think I had better check and see if Kaya and Baki have been taking large sets of photos…) but I get to this market so rarely, I thought this might be better than nothing. I’ll take the real camera next time.

At the entrance to the market, there is an area where people come to sell stuff from their gardens. It is far less formal than the market itself, which is neatly lined up on tables along the side of the road, but I like shopping here better because it is all local and in season and from gardens as opposed to the stuff from the wholesalers.

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Under the olive trees, there is milk for sale, home made butter and cheese, eggs and nuts as well as the usual market offerings. The white corn in the photo above is an unusual sight — I usually only see yellow in the markets. There are usually folks selling offbeat finds like fresh pecans, or medlars, and in the spring you might come across wild asparagus or morels. I’ll visit a few more local markets in the coming weeks so that you can see how they differ from neighborhood to neighborhood.

 

In My Kitchen, December 2012

Signs of the season — a two-kitchen edition!

In My Kitchen is a neat series that started out at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial. To find more, go to the mother lode.

In my kitchen this month, there are signs of the season.

1. Solidified olive oil in the A.M.

olive oil

 

When I went out to the kitchen in the garden to make breakfast, I discovered that the olive oil had solidified. (Those are both olive oil; the one on the right is extra virgin.) This is always a sure sign of winter; apparently it happens at about 40F, so you can see that we are not talking about arctic winter here. Conversely, I have a bottle of coconut oil in the kitchen as well, and when that goes all liquidy I know it’s really hot out.

2. A duck on a hook

duck

This year, we are making a Peking duck for Christmas dinner. We have been hanging it out to dry for a few days now. I am sitting in the city kitchen and it is in the oven as I type this, popping away in the oven and turning a very deep and seductive shade of mahogany. It does need to dry out thoroughly, though, so we took it out to the garden with us.

3. A Christmas cake

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My father loved Christmas cake and always insisted that we coat it in marzipan, cover it in royal icing and then stud it with silver balls. I am not sure why he loved those silver balls so much  because they are not even that nice to eat (I can totally understand the marzipan bit, though). But after all these years, a Christmas cake just wouldn’t seem right without them. We added Darth Maul afterwards:

darth maul

4. An angel

glass angel

My mom got this angel from a glass blower in her neighborhood, back when her neighborhood was Cihangir, Istanbul. She was new to me this year, and has witnessed a lot of baking and other kitchen madness. I’ll miss having her up when all the ornaments are packed away until next year.

So that’s what’s in my kitchen this month. Merry Christmas, everyone!

 

Snapshots

My father took it almost personally when it turned out that I was not so great at taking photographs, and this in turn made me not want to take them so much. Then one day I decided that I would just take snapshots and not worry so much about it, and just like that I started to enjoy taking pictures a whole lot more.

Now, it has been ages since I wrote a post, so I thought I would share some snapshots to shake off that burdensome accumulation of things I ought to have been sharing over the past couple of weeks.

Ali and I were driving out to the garden from the city and we ended up behind a truck carrying a huge rock:

ImageWhere were they taking it? What on Earth would they do with it? How would they move it? I’ll just have to be content now knowing.

We stopped at Sundance and Kaya was delighted to see this excavator (wheel loader? I ought to know these things because I read a lot of picture books about vehicles…)

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The following day, we drove in to Kumluca to get a wood stove for my mom’s room. Ali knew about a place where we could buy one from a truck on the side of the road, and lo and behold there was one, with a wooden staircase leading up into the back of the truck and chimney pipes hanging everywhere. (I know, where was my camera then, right?) On the way back, we passed the graveyard, which has this amazing gate with a pair of giant, praying hands above it:

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In garden news, I have started harvesting the first of the bok choy, although as you can see some other garden inhabitants got to it first. The cabbage whites are still at large, and I patrol all of the brassicas regularly.

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The broad beans that I planted a month ago or so are coming up in neat, optimistic rows:

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And although I always complain that we do not get much fall color since we live in an evergreen forest (Boo Hoo…), the pomegranate orchards out by us are ablaze with bright yellow foliage and the odd split pomegranate burning deep red here and there.

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Whew! That feels better. Now I can get back to writing on a regular basis. Thanks for stopping by.

In My Kitchen, October 2012

The clouds had been gathering all day, but when the first fat raindrops began to fall, it felt like a surprise. Within about five minutes, the rain was coming down in sheets; Kaya and I were making dinner in the kitchen, and I wasn’t sure how we were going to get it to the house without getting soaked. (Umbrella to the rescue.)
When we woke up this morning, the air felt as if it had been scrubbed clean. It was the first morning that had the air of an autumn day, redolent with the smells of damp leaves and soaked earth. Everything seemed clearer and brighter, and the kitchen seemed particularly inviting. So, without further ado, I offer the first glimpse of the kitchen this fall. (To see what’s happening in the mother lode of kitchen glimpses, head over to Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.)
In my kitchen…

…there is the distinct feeling that the maximillian sunflowers are about to stage a world takeover. They are great because they explode into bloom at the very tail end of summer/beginning of fall when everything else is swooning from the heat. Another sign that fall is here at last.

… there is a bowl of popcorn from the garden. Baki and I planted some Dakota Black popping corn and we harvested it a few weeks ago from skeletal, dried out plants. Out of the blue, Baki asked for popcorn this morning right after we ate breakfast, so we tried it out. After much energetic popping, I am pleased to report that it is unbelievably tasty — I swear, it tastes buttery! I like, too, how it looks burnt, but it’s just the hulls and kernels from the corn.

… there are quince, ready to be eaten. These might look green and unappetizing, but they are sweet and fragrant once you get them out of their fuzzy peels. Ali picked them from the tree, which was bent almost double under the weight of the fruit, and we’ve eaten plenty of them already. I will be making quince jam this week, and will post the recipe. It’s my mother-in-law’s no-fail easy-peasy pressure-cooker quince jam.

So these sights, smells and flavors of fall have gotten me well and fully appraised of the change of seasons. Summer is but a sweaty memory. I’m digging out the wellies and the sweaters. Hooray for fall!

Who’s that in the cabbage?

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I was weeding in the keyhole beds when I noticed someone in the Savoy cabbage. Actually, I am surprised that the cabbages haven’t bolted yet in this heat, but just to be sure we’ve been eating them up. This is one of the last ones left. I’m sure this little fellow is going to miss it when we cut it!

I know we’ve played Spot the Frog before, and it wasn’t so easy to see them in the pond, but this time it’s plain to see.

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The frogs are venturing forth from their ponds. This could be due to the amazing leap forward that the garden took in my absence.

While I was in NY, I called Ali regularly with Skype. Every time I asked him what he was doing, he said, “watering.” He would then regale me with tales of how hot and dry it was, and how all the vegetables were dying. Our summers are boiling hot and bone dry, so it is a season where we scramble around for months, trying to keep things alive. Our first summer, we had no hoses, just one pipe that brought water to our garden from the water source. We watered the garden one plant at a time, with buckets, that year. By the following summer, we had hoses more or less all through the garden. So it was up at 5 to water before the sun hiked itself up over the hills at 7. We usually watered a little again in the evening as well. For me, summer was the smell of water on parched earth.

When we returned from NYC, I was eager to get back to the garden, but frankly not very optimistic about what I would find there. When we pulled in through the front gate, Ali said, “Pretty dry, huh.” And it was — the weeds were their usual summer husks and the road was crunchy. But as I went down the stairs to the house, I immediately smelled a difference. It was the smell of wet earth. And when I looked under the plants I saw lengths of thin black hose culminating in green-tipped mini sprinklers. Ali had drip irrigated the entire garden, except for its very uppermost reaches.

I say drip irrigated because the sprinklers drip rather than spray. We do not have much water pressure to speak of. Our water flows from an “eye” where an underground spring has welled up to the surface. One memorable summer day in 2008, we laid a thick black hose from our house to that eye, about a kilometer away. On our end of this arrangement, there is a pipe to the house and kitchen, and a faucet which we connect to a hose running into a 1.5 ton water tank. The drip irrigation runs off this, with only gravity to keep things moving. Still, gravity does a fine job of it, and now instead of waking up at 5 to wrangle hoses, we wake up at 5 to weed, harvest, tend to the chickens and the greenhouse, and watch our garden grow. This year, for the first time, it feels as if the garden might actually grow over these beastly summer months instead of being held just this side of parched oblivion. We’ll see.

Compote

A recipe for compote:
You’ll need some

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peaches,
And some

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apricots.
Peel them if you like, and cut them up. Put them in a pot with water to cover and sugar (or honey, or stevia) to taste. Toss in:

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Herb flowers- these are oregano. They grow wild in the garden and are a great favorite with the butterflies.
Simmer for five or ten minutes and let it cool. Compote is nice chilled- it’s quite refreshing on a summer day. Bits of cooked fruit in a light syrup- it goes down pretty easy. It might seem like food for invalids, but since an invalid would require comforting, nourishing fare, perhaps that’s not such a bad thing.
Thyme flowers would be nice, in fact that’s what gave me the idea: I was reading a book called Mes Tartes by Christine Ferber, whose book, Mes Confitures, is my current favorite jam book (although the titles are French, these are English translations, by the way).
Her tarts are quite intimidating sounding and I have not attempted one yet. (I’m sure I’ll do it when my mom is with me in the kitchen this summer.) She had one tart, though, involving apricots and flowering thyme. That thought stuck with me.
When Ali brought a handful of the last, almost overripe apricots from the tree at the bottom of the garden, I mixed them with peaches from the tree by the kitchen, which have been falling even though they are slightly underripe (the whole kitchen area smells like peaches now,as the fruits ripen). I thought the result was quite tasty. The flowers taste like oregano, of course, but there is also a distinctly flowery flavor to them as well. It has made me curious about other herb flowers. I’ve not cooked with lavender much, for instance, but I’d like to.

Bearing fruit

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This is the result; but first, some back story.

We began work in this garden four years ago. It seems like ago, although it has passed by quickly, but it is not all that much time when you think in terms of trees. With trees, time stretches out before you in decades because the steps that trees take are big long steps that span years. Kaya, on the other hand, takes little steps, so that from one week to the next he is quite a different little fellow.

When we first got here, we had to plant a tree a week. This is because we used a dry, sawdust toilet. Now, most things that I do are driven by necessity, not ideology. We use solar electricity because there is no other kind where we are, for example, not because we are great green giants. But one thing that I do get sort of driven about is water. And although I am not evangelical about it, I disagree with the notion of using water to transport human waste. Overall, although it is stinky stuff and can be full of ick, I can’t see why we don’t face up better to our own excrement and the disposal thereof. To this end, when it came to our toilet, I put my foot down and said no to the septic tank.

This left us with the problem of what to do with our buckets of waste. (They were not as stinky as they might sound, as we used sawdust to bury any deposits, but full is full.)  Our answer to this weekly dilemma was to dig extra deep holes when we planted trees and simply empty the buckets into them. A layer of dirt and a tree later, we could consider our toilet flushed.

Over the past four years, as you can easily calculate, we have planted a number of trees. They seemed to like the arrangement just fine.

(Things slowed down a bit last year when we got a separation toilet. If you are interested in knowing more, I will let Google do the talking.)

We have not had a huge amount of fruit from these trees, as anyone who has planted little saplings will know. The first year, I dutifully plucked all the flowers off of the trees. The next year, they bloomed like crazy and I rubbed my hands greedily. Then all the flowers fell off on their own and we had harvest like this: one sweet red cherry, one jujube, two apples. That is when I learned that plants really won’t be convinced to do anything they don’t want to do. If you want them to do something, you have to make them want to. And a young fruit tree is interested enough in thriving that it will not set more fruit than it is ready to, or at least the ones in our garden won’t!

So when Ali asked me if I had taken a look at the apricot tree down at the Old Water Tank terrace lately, I skipped down the hill and was delighted to be greeted by the tree pictured above. Kaya and I went down to pick them (he was in charge of sampling) and were rewarded with a nice heavy bucket of fruit:

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I picked some of them before they were, strictly speaking, very ripe, but I didn’t want the bugs to get into them, and my mother had mentioned that she would like the apricot jam to be not too sweet. I have made jam with half of them, and it is tart, so she ought to like it. With the rest I think I may try my hand a fruit leather. These are tasty apricots, but not crunchy, which is how I prefer to eat them. We have a crunchy apricot bearing tree at the top of the garden, by the road, but those fruits are still green.

My first overabundance of fruit. A sweet predicament!