Last weekend the 5th Yeşilüzümlü and District Morel Mushroom Festival brought hundreds of visitors to Üzümlü, a normally quiet town located in the mountains just a short car journey from Fethiye.
For three days the streets and main square were bursting with colourful market and handicraft stalls, folk dancing, Turkish music, groups of children with sticky faces from candyfloss and toffee apples and jostling locals, visitors and tourists. From the crowds it was clear that this festival is now firmly established.
The whole event was packed with everything from classical cello music, young energetic dancers in vibrant costumes, interesting talks about wine to a fashion show where the latest ‘dastar’ creations graced the catwalk, but for many, and the main reason why this annual event has become a kind of foodie pilgrimage, the deliciously earthy rich, smell of cooking morel mushrooms was by far the main attraction.
One of the obvious differences from a visit to Üzümlü at any other time of the year was that the town’s women had set up shop outside their homes and were doing a brisk trade in tasty snacks; rolling out Turkish flatbread or gözleme and stuffing them with chopped morels, cheese, herbs and potato, before flipping them onto a hot metal dome to crisp and bubble. The resulting parcel of flavours were served folded and wrapped in a paper napkin. Along with a glass of ayran this is the perfect example of traditional Turkish ‘fast’ food and for those with a sweet tooth, honey (local of course) filled gözleme, made an irresistible desert.
For fungi enthusiasts who also wanted to enjoy the unique taste of morel in the comfort of their own kitchens, thes
e seasonal treasures were on sale by the kilo at stalls equipped with scales and a calculator for negotiations and this gastronomic treats became the subject of some pretty fierce haggling!
Rain is an essential ingredient for a bumper crop of delicious Morel Mushrooms, and this year was no exception but despite the cloudburst on the opening day and Saturday’s showers the whole event was a resounding success, especially on the Sunday, when the sun shone. According to villagers, visitors and one of the main organisers, Seyran Sücü, it was on the Sunday that the event came into its own.
When asked about how this year’s festival had gone, he said, “We wanted to make the 5th Yeşilüzümlü festival essentially ‘local’ both in terms of our wonderful products, morel, wine, and local crafts but also in terms of the performers; so our dancers and musicians were also ‘home grown’ and I think this made the 5th festival even more special than in previous years.” If the smiling faces of the visitors were anything to go by, this year will be a hard act to follow.