Today I went to the Friday market in nearby Ayvacık and realised that this time next week we will be back in Istanbul. I can hardly believe that I have been here continuously since the 20th June. Time has slipped by so pleasurably with visits from family and friends punctuating the glorious sun-filled days of the Aegean and now we are on the home stretch.
I am late I know, in posting about what’s on in the markets for the month of August. I think I have subconsciously been refusing to accept that September is just round the corner and so is the end of this village idyll.
But this post brings us back to September which is when I started posting about the locally available produce last year. No need to continue as the cycle unfolds in its usual predictable way and the fruit and vegetables timelessly come and go with the seasons.
The produce right now is still very much in full summer mode. The newcomers on the scene are figs which you have to be very careful about at they are extremely delicate. Unless you have a dedicated fig eater in your house, I don’t recommend buying more than half a kilo at a time. Make sure you handpick them.
Loads of brightly coloured peppers, green and red. This is absolutely the best time for roasted red peppers: they are big, fat and juicy. There are now so many varieties of green that I hardly know where to start. They are much tastier than you might imagine although we had a foreign visitor recently and when I offered her some for her breakfast platter, she demurred saying ‘it was one step too far’!
I do have something to say about those purple aubergines or eggplants. There are two varieties: the one in the picture above, the dark purple, and the attractive striped white and purple. Tastewise they are much the same but I had noticed that the latter ones tended to go off even in the fridge much faster than the dark ones so I asked one of my market ladies about this.
Yes, she said, you are right. They have seeds and that affects them adversely. So moral of the story: only buy the dark purple aubergines and make sure they are firm and shiny.
I have to say I prefer the display of these courgette flowers to what the locals do with them. These very delicate yellow blooms are always stuffed with the usual rice filling which is never very well seasoned and then they are boiled to death. This results in either a very soggy tasteless stuffed courgette flower or else a filling with the rice not cooked enough. I don’t order them any more when we are out as they are not worth it in my opinion.
My friend Emily says her Italian grandmother used to dip them in a beer batter and fry in hot oil and they were delicious. Cook friend Lütfi says he stuffs them with a mixture of four cheeses. Both of these sound quite delicious to my ear and perhaps worth trying.
Now is the time for melons, both the regular ones and watermelons. They are everywhere: there are roadside stalls, kamyons filled to bursting, market stalls with nothing else but. The sad truth is that none of them are worth buying. They are so big and the odds of buying one that is tasteless so high, that personally I have given up. Our gardener maintains that kabak or courgette seeds are injected into the watermelons as they ripen faster. That would explain the lack of taste but how true it is, I’m not sure.
If you live in Turkey you know that melon and white cheese are favourite rakı meze. Unfortunately, at least in our region around Assos, the melon is often a huge let-down.
Grapes of all the pinkish hues, as well as the different shades of green, are coming into their own now. There are some huge pink ones that are just too big and perfect to be true but they do taste good.
But the real disappointment is the TOMATOES! Who would ever have thought I would be saying that. Çanakkale tomatoes are the jewel in the summer crown in this region and are usually to die for.
This year I became aware back at the beginning of summer that things were not looking good. I am an avid market goer and have been hoping to find some tasty specimens but to date, am really disappointed. What is happening? There they are, looking fat and juicy but get them home, and the story is very different. They have large white cores and thick skins. I haven’t been inspired in the least to do my usual bottling routine. I know I will miss my jars of chopped tomatoes in the winter but the motivation isn’t there.
Despite the note of gloom, Turkish markets are still a joy to visit with the freshest of produce. Let’s just hope that the growers won’t tinker with the seeds and fertilizers too much!