Pumpkins of Turkey

Pumpkin seeds eaten as nuts

Sacks overflowing with seeds and nuts in the stalls Istanbul’s Spice Market can make anyone go crazy. The moment I saw them I said to myself, “Oh my God!”

I picked up off-white coloured seeds which were displayed alongside walnut and others. The seeds looked very familiar. I picked up couple of them and munched. They were crunchy and the shell very thin. “Pumpkin seeds,” said Filiz, our guide, looking at me.

Pumpkin seeds are eaten like nuts in Turkey—especially the one which come from Cappadocia. These are higher up in the hierarchy of nuts and demand a very high price.

 

pumpkins in the fields

Never have ordinary pumpkin seeds tasted so nice…just like nuts. I bought a kilo of them wondering still how my kids would respond: “You went all the way to Turkey and bought roasted pumpkin seeds! Baba you really have gone nuts.” I could see how amused they would be when I handed them the pumpkin seeds and feebly add, “They are different.”

 

Inquiries in the Spice Market and elsewhere in Istanbul for fresh pumpkin seeds yielded no results. Filiz assured: “Don’t bother we will get plenty of them in Cappadocia.”

Our next destination was Cappadocia. The flight from Istanbul to Kayseri (Erkilet Airport) was barely an hour-long. The drive from the airport to Cappadocia proper is 75 kms. Cappadocia is unique in the world and is a miraculous nature wonder and includes the provinces of Aksaray, Nevsehir, Nigde, Kayseri and Kirsehir in the Central Anatolian region.

 

pumpkin harvest

In the Cappadocia region as a result of the volcanic eruptions which occurred in Erciyes, Hasandag and Gulludag in the upper Myosen period a large tableland was formed from the volcanic tufas and together with the erosion of the Kizilirmak river and wind over tens and thousands of years there appeared the chimney rocks which are a wonder of the nature. A particular feature of the eroding tufa soil is not merely its excellent binding qualities when used as mortar for conventional building work, but above all it’s enormous fertility when combined with the guano(droppings) produced by the local dove population, which makes it very suited to intensive horticulture. The soil is very rich and the locals grow potatoes, grapes and pumpkins.

 

We came across bright yellow coloured pumpkins growing in ash coloured fields. Interestingly these pumpkins are grown only for its seeds. The flesh is not eaten. You’re likely to come across villagers deseeding the pumpkins and keeping the seeds to dry in the sun.

 

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