In the Mediterranean town of Fethiye, just like in the rest of Turkey, it isn’t just a case of going nuts in May… nibbling on seeds, dried fruits and nuts is a popular pastime throughout the year and there are shops and market stalls devoted to kuruyemış (koorooyemish).
For foreigners more used to bags of peanuts and cashews, seeing a multitude of mysterious nibbles can be a bit confusing, so today we’re going to describe the most popular goodies that can be found in Fethiye’s kuruyemış shops.
Of course we all know about nuts but did you know that Turkey is in fact a major producer of all kinds, ranging from:
hazelnuts (fındık), almonds (badem), walnuts (ceviz) and pistachios (antep fistığı) and peanuts (yer fıstiği). Actually, peanuts are grown in abundance all around Fethiye’s neighboring town, Seydikemer.
Each part of the country has its own variety… but the largest two nut producing areas are the Black Sea region (hazelnuts) and Gaziantep and Şanlıurfa in Southeast Anatolia for pistachio nuts.
Some come ready roasted and salted, some are raw, while others, like kabuklu badem (almonds in the shell) require a strong pair of nutcrackers.
Ayçekerdeği – Sunflower Seeds in the shell – and Kibris Çekirdeği – Cyprus Sunflower Seeds – Kabak Çekırdeği – Pumpkin Seeds
Unlike their western counterparts, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds in Turkey are not shelled and to avoid the inedible outer part, nibbling on these requires a very particular skill and to eat them at the speed of a Turkish aficionado can take some time to learn. Having said that, once the technique is learned, there is something strangely satisfying about eating them that’s most therapeutic.
These are roasted chickpeas, for which the eastern region of Çorum is particularly famous. With a long history, thought to date back even before Ottoman times, making leblebi is a time consuming process as the chickpeas have to be roasted several times… but the result is delicious, especially when they are spiced.
White and black figs are a staple in Turkey and grow in most regions. In Fethiye they are on sale everywhere but the most prized varieties come from Kayaköy.
Apricots are delicious, healthy and available all year round, although the most delicious variety (in our opinion) is the sun-dried variety from Malatya.
Some more unusual nibbles
Menengiç – Çitlenbik or Çitlembik (Pistacia terebinthus) Very popular as a nibble, it appears that these are related to pistachio nuts, and the whole genus is a member of the cashew family.
They are also used to make a kind of coffee.
Soslu Mısır – Corn Nuts – this corn snack is made from roasted nibs smothered in a spicy sauce. They are quite hard, so if your teeth are crowned be warned… Having said that they are very tasty.
Hünnap (Ziziphus zizyphus) sometimes called jujube. A dry and astringent fruit they are said to have health benefits.
Iğde (Elaeagnus) like hünnap are quite a dry and astringent fruit, but are also said to have health benefits. In Iran, for example, the dried powder of the fruits is used mixed with milk for rheumatoid arthritis and joint pains. It is also one of the seven items which are used in Haft Sin or the seven ‘S’s which is a traditional table setting of Nowruz, the traditional Persian spring celebration.
Now you know…
When you next find yourself outside a kuruyemış shop or faced with a plate of unusual looking fruit, seeds or nuts, you’ll have all the information you need about these addictively delicious nibbles.