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


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.

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!

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.]

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!

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!

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

… 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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Comments (20)

  • Marjane Moghimi 6 years ago Reply

    I love this ! I want to go and visit. What is the best season to go and do you have any favorite place to stay?

    Fig & Quince 6 years ago Reply

    I stayed with family but there are a number of good hotels I believe.
    I think spring is a lovely time to visit but fall is a wonderful time as well … basically you won’t go wrong whichever season.
    Hope you’ll get to visit dear Marjane!

  • Maria Dernikos 6 years ago Reply

    How I wish we had markets like that over here. You really bring the market feel across. I wouldn’t have the nerve to photograph like you do.

    Fig & Quince 6 years ago Reply

    It’s been a terrifying ordeal, but I’m getting better at being bold and taking photos. The more you do it … etc! The markets … ah the markets were marvelous Maria joon!

  • Mary Frances 6 years ago Reply

    Wow. It’s wonderful to see such ingredients in their natural state from the source. Thanks for sharing such a great interesting post!

    Fig & Quince 6 years ago Reply

    my pleasure dear Mary Frances!

  • Banafsheh 6 years ago Reply

    Azita jan, I am definitely visiting Kermanshah again on my next trip to Iran.
    I wish you had played your tourist card again and asked the old gentleman (Pic 1) what he was going to do with that pile of eggplants he bought! LOL

    Fig & Quince 6 years ago Reply

    ha ha , good eyes! 🙂

  • Banafsheh 6 years ago Reply

    Erratum: Picture # 4

  • I’ve seen raw chickpeas in the market before, but not in bunches and so fresh looking. And wild pistachios? What a great adventure you had!

    Fig & Quince 6 years ago Reply

    Mersi! I hope you’ll get to go and visit! Thank you for the balal recipe! 🙂

  • Loved your post as always. I love, love fresh garlic, sometimes I get in my local Persian store.

  • chef mimi 6 years ago Reply

    It makes me sad sometimes to read your blog posts, because I can’t get my hands on such beautiful and unique ingredients! I can’t even get fresh grape leaves – just already brined. Oh well. What are you going to do with these “pistachios?”

    Fig & Quince 6 years ago Reply

    Dear Chef Mimi, The locals use vanushk to make pickles! I do know what you mean, it’s very frustrating that a lot of these types of ingredients are not available. I myself mourn not having ready access to fresh grape leaves. Ah well!!!

    elishsari 6 years ago Reply

    Dear Chef Mimi, where do you live? Aren’t there any vineyards in the vicinity? Or, if you have a yard, why don’t you plant some grapes? Nothing could be easier, they don’t need looking after, and you get plenty of fresh grape leaves every year..

  • elishsari 6 years ago Reply

    Reading about your trip is all the more enjoyable to me because I just returned from Iran myself, where I enjoyed the bazaars in Esfahan and Tabriz.. I have to say that more than anything I was captivated by the endless displays of dried medicinal and culinary herbs, and ended up bringing so many back..Do you know esfand? If so, can you write about it?

  • shunra 6 years ago Reply

    You know those books where you read as slowly as you can, so you won’t have to stop reading, but you’re also super curious about what will happen next, so you read as fast as you can while reading slowly?
    Well, this series has been like that for me. Thanks for taking us on a tour of Kermanshah!

  • Gather and Graze 6 years ago Reply

    Loved reading these posts and seeing your photos from the Kermanshah Bazaar and farmer’s market Azita… and particularly enjoyed being able to hear the language being spoken in your video! 🙂

  • Soureh Sedigh 6 years ago Reply

    I’ve never heard of looks like ghooreh to you crack it open like a psitachio? I’ll have to look for this the next time I’m in Iran

  • Soureh Sedigh 6 years ago Reply

    Also, I had no idea gojeh sabz was just an unripe plum…makes sense really…I wonder if I can find some in Indiana next summer then…sounds like I just have to find someone with a plum tree in their yard

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