Azgil or Loquat | A thing like that!

[This post scheduled to publish while I’m on my Epic Trip to Iran, part 2.]

So a few weeks ago I went on Twitter asking for help identifying the fruit in this photo (that I had snapped sometime last spring time during my epic trip to Iran) because for the life of me, I could no longer remember its name. Twitter friends came out fast and furious to help (in a good way!) and before you knew it, my mystery fruit was identified as loquat (in English) or azgil ازگیل (in Farsi) or Mespilus Germanica if you want to get all botanical and Latin about it.

A Twitter friend informed me that loquats are quite popular in Pakistan.

Then @Freejust1 told me that there are sweet and sour varieties of loquat in Kashmir and that the tree blossoms in November. He then made me quite jealous by boasting of not just loquat but also peach and pomegranate trees growing in the yard of his house in Kashmir! To prove his point, @Freejust1 shared a peek of his garden in bloom and then he just had to really rub it in by sharing a photo of this view of the mountains from his garden!

I mean! Look at that! I have a bump on my head because I swooned and tumbled off my chair! I have decided that I may just move to Kashmir! Where I may feel quite at home apparently because according to @FreeJust1 “Iran has always had a deep cultural influence on Kashmir which is known in the subcontinent as iran-i-sagheer. (Iran ‘e sagheer means little Iran, by the way.)

Back to our fruit, it turns out loquat (azgil) grows abundantly in California as well, particularly in the San Diego area, and many Californians can boast of having a few of its trees growing in their yards. Laura Bashar, fellow Persian food blogger compatriot over at Family Spice also waxed poetic about the abundance of loquat in San Diego and Tannaz, another dear Persian food blogger, over at All Kinds of Yum noted: “my area of LA blows up with loquats in spring. I have (non-Persian) friends with a tree who make jam from them.” OK, Tannazie, no need to brag! ;) Another Twitter friend @Dawn_Hawk mentioned her 3 loquat trees as well and made mention that the loquat fruit in her yard were ripening right on the branches as we bantered on Twitter! She also invited me to go harvest them in California! What a sweet offer! I’d love to accept. In fact,  after moving to Kashmir, I will then move to California. (Honestly though, after my recent visits to Los Angeles I swear I am this close and so very tempted to move to Tehrangeles for real and I’d do it too in a New York minute were it not for the deal breaking factors of the cars and the sun, ha ha. After all these years of happily dwelling car-free in New York, I cringe at the thought of having to own and drive a car and navigate traffic and I’m somewhat like a vampire, verily shunning the sun, so as you can see I would not fare well in sunny southern California.)

I was so happy to have received immediate and straightforward answer to my “Identify this mystery fruit” Twitter query but of course @RezaShaer just had to volunteer that: “I think these are called Azgil Japoni, Different from regular Azgil.” Of course, as an attorney, it behooves him to make such distinctions! Echoed by a couple of other people as well who observed that the fruit in the pic are actually called Japanese azgil. Then someone said that “no, these are not loquat” but rather a fruit calledkonar, however, others objected vehemently and pointed out that azgil is not be mixed up with Konar that does look very similar but is smaller and is a fruit of an entirely different type of tree. But people, oy vey, let’s not even worry about these things!

Konar! Fruit of

Konar! Fruit of “sedr” tree in Tajrish Bazaar | Tehran, Iran

It’s so funny! I Googled for images of “konar fruit” and found one of my very own pictures, ha ha, that I’d published in a post about my tour of the fabulous Tajrish bazaar in Tehran. A fruit which I back then reported as “quite popular to eat in the southern regions of Iran”, and one that “tastes something like a combination of apples and pears.”  Sounds pretty good to me! According to the yellow sign, konar is also good for problems with diabetes, cholesterol, nausea and lung diseases and filled to the brim vitamins A, B, C and calcium. That sounds pretty good too! And also, a sweet friend tells me that “they make ‘sedr’ which is the what they used as shampoo back in the day (and some still do) from the leaves of konar tree.” Very neat, no? According to my friend @andoust whose mom used to make her put the sedr “shampoo” in her hair couple of times a month after her regular shower, it did wonders for the hair. “My grandma and her mom before her all used it too.” Ha! Must give it a try if I get a chance! 

I swear that writing about and exploring Persian food sometimes feels like being Alice in the Wonderland and falling down the rabbit hole and bouncing from one amazing thing to another so that you forget where you started and have no idea where you might end up. It’s all fascinating but for the interest of efficiency and for the sake of my sanity (what little shreds and jagged shards of it remain) I’ll pretend I never did hear of this distinction between Japanese and regular azgil and I will be in steadfast denial about dealing further with konar as well! (La la la, my fingers are in my ears. I know not what you speak of.) But seriously, sigh, I’ll honor my blogging duties and look into it and report back one of these days.

In conclusion, it was fun how much activity this one simple question generated (drawing comments from Kashmir, San Diego, Los Angeles, New York, Iran and Pakistan and elsewhere) and it just shows how much people love talking about and discussing food and food related stuff on social media.

Thank you lovely Twitter and FB friends: @Dawn_Hawk @Eyeblinks @sidewalk lyrics @RezaShaer @Freejust1 @HameedPooya and Laura and Tannaz and @zozobaking and @anadoust.

And let’s end this fruity (but not nutty) post with a couple of other sightings of azgil aka loquat aka Mespilus Germanica (a sweet fruit which may just be Japanese azgil but is not to be confused however under any circumstance with Konar) as captured by your faithful blogger, aka moi, during what I frequently and persistently (although hopefully not annoyingly) refer to as #myepictriptoiran.

Graden in Shiraz, Iran with blooms and loquat fruit | @FigandQuince (Persian food culture blog)

Azgil (loquat) in Shiraz, Iran

Fallen branch with unripe azgil (loquat) in my va va voom’s aunt‘s garden in Shiraz, Iran.

Azgil (loquat) fruit in blue glass goblet in Tehran, Iran |@FigandQuince (Persian food culture blog)

Azgil in blue glass goblets in Haleh’s kitchen in Tehran, Iran

And azgil as detected (and very probably gobbled up shortly thereafter) in blue glass goblets in lovely Haleh‘s kitchen.

That’s it folks!

Till soon’ish & until then may you have many ripe delicious things in your fridge!

My Epic Trip to Iran – Part 2! | A New Journey!

My epic trip to Iran is so 2014! Here we are in 2015 and brushing up against 2016 — and guess what? Yes, yes, YES! I’m going back for a nice long visit to Iran again!

This time I’m going with my folks. It’s their first visit back after 20 years.

One occasion is my cousin’s wedding —  we are all tickled pink by the idea of seeing him as a sha’damad and I’m delighted by the idea of actually attending a real Iranian wedding in Iran!

Another occasion is that my mom is having her first solo art exhibit at Haft Samar Gallery in Tehran! The opening reception is September 18th. (The gallery’s website will be updated in a week or so — after their summer hiatus — with all the relevant info.) If you’re in Tehran, do come and say hi! (دوستان حتما بیایید!)

Yet another occasion is something exciting in the works for moi, but I will keep that under the wraps as a surprise till later.

I’ll be off for a couple of months. In my absence, I’ve scheduled a few blog posts that I hope you’ll enjoy. This time around, I won’t blog while traveling in Iran (I have my priorities straight finally and plan to devote that time on eating kooloocheh instead) but I definitely plan to post updates and pix of sights and food (yummy yummy Persian food) every chance I find via social media. If you do want to follow along my excellent journey (and please do!) there’s Twitter, my personal Facebook page, Fig & Quince’s Facebook page, and Instagram which may just be the best option.

 

Khoda hafez for now and till soon my friends!

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Lusty tour of the food I ate in Kermanshah

Homemade Persian fruit roll up (called lavashak) made with shahtoo (red mulberries) in Kermanshah, iran on paisely cloth

homemade shahtoot lavashak | Persian fruit rollup w red mulberries

In this last installment of docu posts about my super sweet Trip to Kermanshah, I really wanted to give you a mouthwatering, lusty tour of all the yummy food I ate during this visit. Everything from the Kermanshahi classic stew of khalal ghaimeh va zereshk (almond & barberry with cubed meat stew) to the spectacular Persian rib kabab (dandeh kabab) we devoured after touring tagh bostan, to gojeh sabz (unripe green plums) to all the toothsome shirini Kermanshahi (boxes and boxes) I got to take and I had to savor. However, somehow or other, I managed to either neglect to take photos or when I did, I took mostly blurry or poorly lit or horribly composed photos. You won’t need to scold me as I’ve already had a stern, scalding talk with myself (“one more mess up like this, buster, and you will be turning in your food blogger badge, doing a 100 push ups, making 100 servings of piyaz dagh without a break, and ruing the day you started a food blog.”) I promise, I shall know better from now on. This terrible mistake will not happen again.

That said, I hope you’ll still enjoy this as-is tour de food of Kermanshah, Iran. (Aside: I was rather pleased with myself for thinking up that “tour de food” phrase — I never have claimed to be forootan, have I — but Dr. Google busted my chops once again by shrugging and saying “Meh! So what! So have a gazillion other people.” Hmmmf! Doctor Google may be smart and all but he could certainly employ a kinder less artist-killer bedside manner.)

In any event, let’s commence our lusty oftentimes blurry foodie tour of Kermanshah shall we?  Rolah jan, berim روله جان بریم as one might say in = the Kermanshah dialect!

Well to begin with, consider the cover photo of the Persian fruit roll up. These are called “lavashak” and they come in a variety of colors and flavors, depending on what type of fruit or mixtures of fruits has been used in its creation. Super popular as a snack, specially with kids, lavashak is sold in supermarkets and bazaars and delis all over Iran, but of course, some households make their own. One of those households being that of my cousin Roshanak, who is in the practice of making lavashak with all kinds of fruit from apricots to black plums to red mulberries, such as the one pictured above. It was so good! Akh! Ooof! My mouth is watering thinking about it.

Let’s move on before I drown in a pool of drool!

Persian table laden with fruit goodies assorted edibles to receive a guest (mehmooni) | Kermanshah, Iran may 2014

Typical example of Persian table set to receive a mehmoon

Click Here to ogle some yummy Persian food!

A Visit to Bisotun & Taq-e Bustan | Kermanshah, Iran

Bisotun mountains near Kermanshah, Iran

Hiking in the historic Bisotun trail | Kermanshah, Iran

As I’ve been saying, I only had 3 short days in Kermanshah, but it was one of those trips where every minute counted and was quality — either fun, poignant, intriguing or drole, and often a wonderful combination of all of the above. In this penultimate post in the Trip to Kermanshah series I’ll take you with me to visit the two major historical attractions of Bisotun and Tag-e Bustan.

On an overcast afternoon, me and cousin Roshanak and Mr. S and Amoo Fereidoon drove to Bisotun. It was nearly an hour long drive but we had a lot of fun. I videotaped some of it, see below. Since it’s not dubbed into English, I’ll tell you the context:

We were discussing the abundance of Muhammadi roses in Roshanak’s house and I asked Amoo Fereidoon to describe how to make rosewater. Amoo readily started talking about the golab making process, using an old fashioned Kermanshahi word (‘”miyan” instead of ‘vassat’ to refer to “in the middle”) that promptly had Roshanak dissolving into peals of laughter. Then the talk turns to the ancient statue of Herculus at Bisotun and what’s happened to it (i.e the nude statue’s immodesty was covered in the period after the revolution and at some point Herculus was sadly beheaded but its head was later replaced) and that made all of us start laughing as well. What is not documented in the video and what I just remembered with a jolt of pleasure and also a pang of covetous cognition of absence, was that Roshanak had brought along a huge box of assorted shirini Kermanshahi and lots of fruit for us to snack on our little fun road trip. It was such a good wholesome time! Simple things in life, people, simple things, those are the ones that count when you come right down to it.

Once we arrived at the massive car park area of Bisotun it was drizzly so Amoo Fereidoon stayed put in the car and took a power nap while Roshanak and Mr. S and I went and hiked and saw all the sights of this majestic mountain bearing historic traces of ancient Persia  … passing by the aforementioned 480 BC era Hercules; the “Farhad Tarash” parts of the mountain where the rocks are made smooth because as legend goes that crazy-in-love (or plain crazy) Farhad chipped at the mountains in the besotted hopes of winning Shirin’s love; and the gorgeous cliffs with world-famous bas relief and inscriptions dating back to Darius The Great’s time.

I’ll leave detailed info about the site and its history between you and Mr. Google but will tell you that Bisotun was registered in UNESCO’s List of World Heritage Sites in 2006.

Here are some pix:

The statue of Hercules in Bisotun, 480 BC and discovered in 1957. Near Kermanshah, Iran

The statue of Hercules in Bisotun, 480 BC and discovered in 1957. Near Kermanshah, Iran

Hiking the historic Bisotun mountain with cousin | Kermanshah, Iran @Figandquince (Persian food culture blog)

Me & Cousin Roshanak hiking the historic Bisotun Mountain | Iran 2014

Farhad Tarash site at Bisotun, Iran |@FigandQuince (Persian food culture blog)

Farhad Tarash smooth clifs Bisotun attributed to Farhad & Shirin Legend | Bisotun, Iran

Allegedly this is where Farhad carved out the mountain for the love of Shirin

The legend goes that the Farhad the Stonecutter (Farhad Tarash) in love with Princess Shirin (who did return his love) was tasked by her father the king with creating a canal in the mountains to gain permission for her hand. This huge smooth rock face part of Bisotun mountains – popular with climbers – is allegedly proof of this legend. The story of Farhad and Shirin is riveting and (spoiler alert!) it has a Rome & Juliet ending. Here’s link to a very nicely narrated account of Shirin & Farhad: A Persian Love Story.

I don’t have any pix of the Darius the Great bas relief at Bisotun (I took it in instead of clicking away on the phone) so we might as well get in the car and drive to Taq-e Bustan, the other major historical site covered that day.

We drove to Tag e Bostan, in a race with the sun, arriving just before the sunset, and took in the beauty of this classic attraction of Kermanshah. I very much missed my father while I was there and hoped that he himself would one day soon return to this site which as my Amoo and dokhtar amoo described has long been a favorite family hangout.

Tag Bostan Carved Alcove Sassanian Relief | Kermanshah, Iran @FigandQuince (Persian food culture blog)

Sassanian bas relief in the Carved alcoves of Tag Bostan | Iran

Sassanian era bas reliefs set inside and around alcoves carved into the majestic Tag Bostan mountains, a historic attraction that is surrounded by popular open air restaurants and a boating pond, was the final leg of my second day of sightseeing odyssey in Kermanshah.

And here’s another video below, offering a glimpse of Tag Bostan and the surrounding boat pond … excuse the wobbliness, and please do excuse the high decible screetch of yours truly. I am loud, I realize with dismay! Note to self: pipe it down, dude!

Here’s how the day ended:

After duly seeing the sights at Tagh Bostan, we grabbed a wickedly good dandeh kabab (Persian rib BBQ served with bread, oh my gosh so yummy I can’t even begin to tell you, jayeh hamatoon khalli) and called it a night. A very good night.

Stay tuned for the final installment of the Trip to Kermanshah series when I take a lusty tour of all the yummy food I had to eat there.

Till soon!

Your Faithful Blogger

Poppies, camomiles, and mountains | Koohnavardi with family in Kermanshah

city of kermanshah aerial view from taghbostan mountain, iran

City of kermanshah viewed from Taghbostan mountain

Poppies buttercups and Kermanshah - viewed from Taghbostan mountains. iran, 2014

In this 6th installment of the Trip to Kermanshah series, I’m finally gearing up to tell the story of going mountain climbing and picking up wild poppies and camomile … drinking in not just fresh air and elixir drinks but some much needed family goodness and bonding. Here’s how it came about:

Same afternoon that I arrived in Kermanshah, my whole family came over to my cousin Roshank’s house to see me. It was so good (and also super surreal) to see everyone after 3 decades! People I’d known as little kids were grown adults with families of their own and babies I’d not even been around to witness their births were now heading towards college or getting their master degrees! And then there were those dear departed members of the family whose absence cast a long shadow of longing and sadness. Where did they go? Where did time go? How did all of this unfold in a blurry blink of an eye like a greedily gorged Netflix series? (Scenes like this feel like experiencing sci-fi games of time! Except that it is not a game of time, but a game of life and the path that “sarnevesht” leads you to take.)

Our chit chat was mostly all fun, light-hearted catching-up-after-a-long-time variety, but at some point there was talk of the impact of the Iran-Iraq war on Kermanshah (the city was harshly ravaged) and I was told tales of the horrors of war they all endured and experienced. Roshanak and a few others joked about how jumpy they still feel when they hear loud noises, and the lingering impact of the war on everyone’s nervous system. I’d had no idea! I am grateful that my family survived living through the war with not just their limbs but their spirit and heart intact. To wit, my cousin Mehran, who was drafted as a teenage soldier serving at the front during the Iran-Iraq war probably had it the hardest and yet is one of the warmest, nicest, most effusive types of people I’ve come across. (Aside: As I was finishing off writing this post, a podcast episode dealing with post traumatic syndrome called “Healing Trauma” made its way to my listening queue and it’s quite interesting so here’s the link if you want to listen to it.)

Cousin Mehran has a truly lovely wife. I know I tend to throw that adjective around like I’m throwing seeds at pigeons but trust me when I say that Simin joon IS lovely. Trust! Case closed! They also have two wonderful daughters who impressed me with their open charm and calm maturity beyond their tender young years. Anyhow, cousin Mehran and his family told me about their standing routine every Friday (the weekend day off in Iran) of getting up at dawn to go kooh navardi (mountain climbing) followed by a round or two of badminton game after descent followed by a sobhaneh sur l’herb a picnic breakfast that is. (Most Iranians, myself heartily included, love love LOVE picnics! Any excuse to spread a sofreh in nature and eat and lounge and play and spend time with friends and family!) Theirs sounds like an awesome, invigorating and entirely wholesome family tradition that in part explained the riddle of the equanimity, poise and unbridled good nature of the family! Those endorphins, you know! And healthy body and healthy mind and all of that. I should also mention that kooh navardi, aka hiking up the mountains, has forever been and remains a very popular recreational activity for all Iranians, young and old and in between.

So cousin Mehran and Simin joon and the girls asked me: “Azita, mikhai biyaye kooh navardi ba ma?”  To which I responded with an enthusiastic: “Would I? I’d LOVE to!” They didn’t seem entirely convinced that I had what it took to get up at dawn and then climb atop the rocks of a steep mountain, but dear friends, they didn’t know they were dealing with not a sedentary but an entirely athletic specimen of a food blogger here. Ha ha!

Long story not that much shorter, my cousin and his family picked me up and there was a sense of exhilaration (sans a coffee buzz mind you!) already in the air as we listened to Persian dance music in the car and chatted up a storm and then we parked and started climbing atop the majestically tall and gorgeously rugged and imposing rocky terrain of Taghe Bostan.

We climbed and climbed and climbed. Poppies and dandelions and camomile flowers and butter cups sprinkled the steep jagged edges and even though it was so early in the morning, the mountains were alive with people! We could hear people singing! So many people singing! Men and women. It was a sight to behold. My cousin recited poems and said wise things and I videotaped him.

We picked flowers, we giggled, we took selfies and photos. We visited the Memorial of Unknown Soldiers on our path down the mountain. Once we finally descended after an hour or two of exertion, cousin Mehran bought me a cup of ab ‘e aloo to drink to nourish the body — as is the tradition to do after such a workout. Before getting in the car, we sat on the ledge near the car park – with all of the ancient city of Kermanshah, the birth place of my great grandparents and grandparents and my father and all of my paternal aunts and uncles — spread beneath us, with the tall jagged peaks of the mountain around to awe and humble and anchor us. The girls and I took photos of the ab ‘e aloo. Taking photos of food is a universal impulse, I tell you! That ab ‘e aloo was perhaps not the most delicious thing I had to taste during my sentimental journey back to my homeland, I admit, but it may have been the thing that nourished me more than anything else during my epic trip to Iran. It tasted of kindness, family, beauty. It tasted like being home. It was nourishment, and not just the body, but the soul. We all lingered a bit, and then we got in the car and drove a bit till we got to a park where we had our little picnic sobhaneh, a simple and very tasty fare of noon va panir va moraba and chayee (tea and bread and jam and cheese) and played a round or two of badminton and then went home. In the car ride home, and it was only 8:30 a.m. after all of that, Mehran played super cheerful pop Kurdish music and I held on to my bouquet of wildflowers wobbling in my lap (try not snapping your fingers to that song if you can, I dare you!) and we all chit chatted amicably and in good spirits home. The entire experience was gold star fun, pure exhilaration and joy. One of the true highlights of my trip. A memory that is a medal I keep burnishing and it keeps shining, brighter and brighter and brighter.

Here are a few photos from that day — followed by a recipe for a beverage that might be yet another Persian elixir!

freshly picked camomile flowers in the palms of hand - mountains of Kermanshah, Iran, taghbostan, 2014

camomile flowers freshly picked off the mountain | Kermanshah, Iran 2014

Iranian man posing behind Rock in taghbostan kermanshah mountain painted with slogan: khasteh nabshid which means:

A rock that says: “Khasteh Nabashid!” AKA: “Keep on Trucking!”

Grave of unknown soldiers memorial in taghbostan mountain Kermanshah, Iran

Grave of Unknown Soldiers Memorial | Kermanshah, Iran

ab 'e aloo (prune water) and poppies buttercup and camomile flowers picked from mountain - Kermanshah, Iran 2014

Poppies, buttercup & prune water (ab ‘e aloo) | Kermanshah, Iran 2014

And here’s a recipe to make ab ‘e aloof: 1) Soak a cup of dried plums in water overnight. 2) In the morning, drain, add 2 cups of fresh cold water and then boil for 30 minutes. 3) Allow to cool. Pour into a glass. 4) Hand it to your homesick cousin or to anyone needing an infusion of good will to salvage a heavy heart.

And with that my dear friends, I bid you a fond fare thee well for now but I shall return — nurtured and nourished and gung-ho with the excitement of sharing with you the next and penultimate installment of my excellent adventures in Kermanshah, Iran.

Takieh Mo’aven ol Malek | Kermanshah, Iran

Inner courtyard of Takieh Moaven 'ol Malek, Kermanshah Iran 2014 | @FigandQuince (Pesian food culture blog)

Inner courtyard of Takieh Moaven ‘ol Malek, Kermanshah Iran 2014

Flower garden innner courtyard of Takieh Moaven 'ol Malek, Kermanshah Iran 2014 | @FigandQuince (Pesian food culture blog)

Flower garden courtyard of Takieh Moaven ‘ol Malek, Kermanshah Iran 2014

Inner courtyard of Takieh Moaven 'ol Malek, Kermanshah Iran 2014 | @FigandQuince (Pesian food culture blog)

Inner courtyard of Takieh Moaven ‘ol Malek

In this latest installment of Trip to Kermanshah series I’ll take you to one of the sights you must visit if you are ever in the Land of Shirin and Farhad. I only had 3 short days in Kermanshah, but thankfully my thoughtful cousin Roshanak planned a great itinerary for our one main sightseeing day. First we swung by and explored the Grand Bazaar of Kermanshah (exploits of which were detailed here & here) and then Roshanak treated me to a delicious lunch at a wonderful restaurant, and in between, we visited “Takieh Moaven al Malek” in the old quarters of the city.

Takieh Moaven al Malek, a striking 19th century Qajar complex, is neither a mosque nor a palace nor was it ever a private residence; rather, it is a Hosseinieh, a shi’ite Moslem complex used to perform religious ceremonies and plays. For further (succinct yet detailed) explanation of the building’s purpose, I’ll take the lazy way out (akhaysh!) and direct you to Lonely Planet Guidebook. As for the history and provenance of the site, I’ll take the easy way out once again and point you to a good informative paragraph at Wikitravel for Kermanshah.

tile painting of Shah Abbas at Takieh Moaven Malek in Kermanshah, Iran | @Figandquince (Persian food culture blog)

Shah Abbas I presume?

I will be more forthcoming with my impressions of this sight, however, which are thus:

a flurry of tiles and turquoise, colored glass, walls of patchwork mirrors, many murals of mustachioed kings and men and swords and horseback battles, a serene and blooming flower garden inner courtyard, and a small museum. Takieh was perhaps not as enchanting as Narenjestan in Shiraz, nor as breathtaking as the many incredible edifices in Isfahan, but in its own right: quite interesting, quite striking, and very beautiful!

I may have taken a few strategic shortcuts here in this post, but I will not skimp on sharing a bunch of cool photos with you that kind of drive home the point that this place was pretty much a sight for sore eyes.

Let’s go inside, shall we?

sun lion Persian emblem above wooden gate enrance of Takieh Moaven Malek in Kermanshah, Iran | @figandquince (Persian food culture blog)

Click to enter and enjoy!

Freshly Harvested Chickpeas & Vanooshk (Wild Pistachio) | Kermanshah, Iran

Vanoosh fruit of Persian Turpentine tree aka wild pistachio or mountain pistachio, native to Kermanshah Iran

Plate of Vanooshk aka Wild Pistachio | Kermanshah, Iran 2014

Vanooshk (wild or mountain pistachio) in orange clander next to blooming colorful flowers in Kermanshah, Iran 2014

Vanooshk & flowers in cousin Roshanak’s house | Kermanshah, Iran 2014

Gentle reader, hello and welcome to part 4 of the Trip to Kermanshah series!

As you saw for yourself the other day when we strolled through the Grand Bazaar of Kermanshah you can find everything there from shirini kermanshahi to gold jewelry to grizzly rows of severed cow’s heads (let us not speak of those yet or better yet never again!)

I omitted mention of the thriving farmer’s market bustling with all manners of fresh fruit and vegetables and herbs just outside and around the bazaar. Saving its tale for now.

Stacks of freshly harvested green peas with roots at farmers market in Kermanshah, Iran 2014

And this is freshly harvested chickpeas! Roots & all!

Back tracking a bit, and as I pointed out recently, you may by now have noticed a pattern with Persians and their passionate penchant for unripe produce! Let’s just go ahead and call it an impetuous love affair!

To wit, we have unripe almonds (chaghaleh badoom چاقاله بادوم ), unripe green plums (gojeh sabz گوجه سبز), and just recently we made the tart yet invigoratingly pleasant acquaintance of unripe sour grapes (ghureh غوره) all of which are specimens of things not yet ripe yet beloved by Iranians and consumed with relish as either a fruit snack, or as a cherished culinary ingredient, or for its medicinal benefits, or for all of the above.

While writing about ghureh I did wonder if I were missing any other unripe fruits and vegetables that have sweet-talked their way into the Persian palette, and while writing this post I realized I’d forgotten about at least one more such instance.

During the tour of Kermanshah’s farmer’s market I came in close contact with mountain grown wild pistachios called vanooshk ونوشک and I was also tickled to  find out about the nibbling possibilities of freshly harvested chickpeas!

Persian woman in Kermanshah Iran bazar snacking on freshly harvested chickpeas

Kind Persian lady demos snacking on freshly harvested chickpeas

Here’s what transpired:

I was walking and talking with my cousin Roshanak but out of the corner of my eyes I couldn’t help but notice this lady munching off what appeared to be torn off tree branches! WHAT!

Inquiring minds want to know and I played my tourist card and before my cousin could stop me, pounced on the poor woman and asked what she was nibbling on. As was wont of almost everyone I interacted with during my trip to Iran, the lady was super nice and friendly and warmly informed me that she was enjoying snacking on freshly picked green chickpeas or nokhod kham as we call it in Farsi.

[Aside: In the photo above please do note the presence of my nemesis, okra, piled on trays at the bottom and in the center of the photo. My father loves okra, particularly Persian okra stew (khoresh ‘e bamiyeh) but it’s the one thing I can not abide to eat in any way, shape or form.]

Stacks of freshly harvested green peas with roots at farmers market in Kermanshah, from my epic trip to Iran 2014

The freshly-harvested-chickpeas-snacking-nice-lady offered me to try some of the nokhod ‘e kham and I confess I was not shy enough to refuse and I heartily agreed to pick and munch. I no longer recall the precise taste but I do remember that the green chickpeas were kind of crunchy and overall: pleasant. Certainly a most intriguing way to snack!

Afterwards, my cousin Roshanak laughed and said “Vai, Azi jan, chera inkaro kardi? You shouldn’t eat unwashed things!” But you know what, I pretty much threw caution to the wind during my trip, or rather, I was not even conscious of the need to be cautious, to be honest. I ate and drank what was offered and was available or seemed novel, tempting or interesting and it was all good and I lived to tell the tales! And I do have a few fun tales left to tell in that regard!

Before leaving the bazar’s farmer’s market, Roshanak wanted to buy something. A little something called vanooshk!

Heaping mound of Vanooshk (aka wild or mountain pistachio) in Kermanshah Bazar, Iran

Vanooshk piled high! | Kermanshah, Iran 2014

Here’s a mound of vanooshk, piled high. It bears a striking resemblance to unripe sour grapes, n’est ce pas?

What is vanooshk? Well, it is the fruit of a tree called “baneh” that grows in the mountains of Iran. In Farsi, vanooshk is also known as wild pistachio or mountain pistachio. In English the tree is known as the Persian turpentine tree and if you want to get all Latin about it, the tree is called Pistacia atlantica.

To the best of my knowledge, vanooshk is not nibbled on raw, but is used to make everything from torshi (Persian pickles) to ash and abghoosht (thick hearty Persian soups) to khoresh (Persian stews.) At least, Kermanshahi folks do so. My visit was not long enough for me to taste any of these culinary marvels. Alas!

Iranian woman buying vanooshk (wild or mountain pistacio) in Kermanshah bazar in Iran,. Photo from my epic trip to Iran!

Cousin Roshanak inquiring about purchasing Vanooshk in Kermanshah, iran

Iranian woman buying vanooshk (wild or mountain pistacio) in Kermanshah bazar in Iran,. Photo from my epic trip to Iran! Also: fresh grape leaves!

Roshanak buying Vanooshk! | Kermanshah, Iran 2014

Stacks of freshly picked grape leaves at Kermanshah bazar in Iran

The green bounty of freshly picked grape leaves

Gasp! What have we here? Do check out this gorgeous pile of fresh grape leaves as well! Oh my! These beauties! What I wouldn’t give to get my grubby hands on some right now to make dolmeh ‘ye barg ‘e mo دلمه برگ مو (stuffed grape leaves, Persian style.)

My cousin Roshank has a beautiful bagh (a term referring not to a farm per se but a piece of land, private garden, used strictly to grow fruits and vegetables) and before I left Kermanshah she made sure to give me a tote bag packed and filled with freshly picked grape leaves from the trees of her own bagh that I took with me to Tehran, as one of the many sweet and charming souvenirs of my trip to my father’s city of childhood.

Now for good measure, I present you with a short video below that captures just a minute of the escapades of the day …

And let’s end with this nice smiley vendor

Smiley farmer's market vendor at kermansha Iran outdoor bazar posing with boquet of vanooshk (aka wild or mountain pistachio)

… who was a little grumpy at first but hammed it up like a champ when I asked him to pose with a vanooshk bouquet. Damesh garm!

Back soon with the next installment of this Trip to Kermanshah series.

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