I was reminded to write about food here because this morning we raided the huge fruit and vegie shop at the top of our road to top up our supplies. It is always packed with customers and is very, very reasonable with prices. It is really enjoyable to be back in an old-fashioned fresh produce shop and see mounds of vegies and fruit piled up in all directions.
It’s why one of the things I’m really enjoying in North Cyprus is the food, because it’s back to basics. There are no mass-produced vegies and fruit here that have been fiddled with so they can last a long time between producer and consumer. Here all food is seasonal (apart from imported bananas and mangoes) and it comes au naturel – no washed and brushed spuds and carrots here, they come straight from the farmer and are covered in dirt. Very little is bagged up or packaged, you do it yourself. Nothing’s sanitised for fussy consumers!
So, given the nature of seasonal produce, we’ve just worked through a glut of juicy strawberries and cherries which tasted fantastic because they’re picked locally and sent straight to market. No freezing. No packaging. Just fresh fruit which is full of flavour. Now we’re heading into the tomato and apricot season. Tomatoes are down to 45 cents/kilo and they taste absolutely marvellous. As for the apricots – they are heavenly! I used to find in Australia that they were pretty tasteless and dry, but here they are sweet and so utterly juicy.
Oranges and lemons are always dirt cheap because they’re grown locally in vast quantities. Cucumbers are the Lebanese variety and are in full swing at the moment. You go into the greengrocer’s and there are mounds of these small cucumbers at around 45 cents/kilo.
Because pomegranates are grown here and in Turkey, pomegranate molasses which costs a bomb in Turkey is dirt cheap here. And I came across naturally dried apricots which leave chemically dried apricots for dead. They are sweet and soft, not like leather, and it’s a pleasure to chew on them as a snack during the day.
When you go into supermarkets, there’s a big array of salads to take away, done freshly because there’s a demand for these products so there’s always a quick turnover. I buy tahini, humous, tzatziki (called cacik here and pronounced chachik), pickled cabbage, a tomato-chilli salsa and freshly-cooked beetroot from the local supermarket because the prices are so cheap it’s not worthwhile making your own at home.
I have to admit that there are vegies here which I can’t identify at all, they are quite strange to me. But I’ve just come across a cookbook which I am to track down which is about Turkish-Cypriot cooking and identifies the different root and leafy, green vegies. I’ve also found that local people will take to the mountains and paddocks to gather “weeds” which are, in fact, very nutritious and, of course, free.
And eating out is divine. Food is fresh, cheap, beautifully presented and waiters and restaurant owners are always so friendly, helpful and cheerful.
We’ve both been geriatric gypsies over the past couple of decades but here in North Cyprus we feel we are finally at home – happy, relaxed and very, very comfortable with the energy here and the wonderful people we’ve met.