The Garden of Heaven: Fruits
The provinces of Antalya, Burdur and Isparta are like gardens of heaven with their bountiful variety of fruits. From the sunny seashore to snow capped mountains, from the serene lake zone to cool plateaus, the region provides a wide spectrum of climates for almost all types of fruits to thrive.
Travellers in history often give flamboyant descriptions of fruit orchards in the region. Titus Livius vividly writes about Sagalassos fruits, as “uber fertilisque omni genere frugrum”, and Ibn Battuta mentions medieval Antalya as: “ The fruit gardens and vines are abundant, and their fruit delicious, the Kamaruddin apricot is of particular delight, and its sweet almond dried”…
Famous Ottoman traveller Evliya Çelebi gives an extensive list of fruits with reference to locations: Lemons, bitter oranges, pomegranates, figs of Finike; apples and grapes, orchards and vines of Elmalı; lemons, bitter oranges, citrons dates, olives, figs, sugar cane of Adalya (Antalya); lemons, bitter oranges, pomegranates, olives, figs, dates and grapes of Alanya, and the list goes on..
The high altitude of Elmalı and Korkuteli is ideal for fruits requiring continental climate, and wine grapes demanding dramatic temperature changes between day and night. Almost tropic, warm and humid coastal zones provide home to exotic fruits. Many settlements are often associated with certain fruits: Pomegranate is the symbol of Side since ancient times; Anamur is the capital of bananas; Walnuts of Burdur is registered with geographical appelation; Apples of Elmalı and Isparta are rivals to each other. The fruit cornucopia follows with luscious cherries, apricots, plums and peaches.
Of all the fruits, one requires a special mention: Orange shines like sun as the symbol of Antalya. Citrus fruit trees of all kinds mark the landscape between the mountains and the sea, and the air is filled with the sweet scent of the orange flower.
Pomegranate has been regarded as the symbol of fertility and abundance by almost all the cultures that existed in this geography. Thousands of jewel like seeds that burst open from ripe pomegranate inevitably reminds one of treasure chests full of precious stones. Mny towns grow their own varieties, some sweet, some sour, and some with tiny seeds. The name of the town Side, also meant pomegranate in ancient times, and the fruit has been the symbol of the city minted in coins.
Banana is the most traded fruit in the world market. It was first domesticated in Southeast Asia and spread to Africa and the Mediterranean by Arab merchants. Its history in Antalya region is rather recent, the first tree was brought to Alanya in 1750’s as an ornamental plant. The banana is only cultivated for its fruit after 1930’s. The banana capital of the region is definetely Anamur, with the banana plantations starting from east of Alanya stretching well beyond Anamur. Banana plant has the peculiar characteristic of collapsing thoroughly each year after it bears its fruits and reborn the next year. In that aspect it is like the Phoenix of plants. The banana fruit develops from the banana heart, which inflorescens from the tree like a large hanging cluster. One can even hear the banana heart being born, as the tree almost cracks open when the first shoot emerges from the stem.
Apple, Walnut, Cherry
This trio creates the fruit basket of the region with a plethora of varieties grown in Burdur and Isparta, together with high plateaus of Korkuteli and Elmalı. Plump cherries of Isparta are exported directly to abroad; white cherries are delicate; sour cherries are tangy and juicy. The little town of Ağlasun, nestled at the outskirts of the ancient city of Sagalassos, has walnuts and cherries as its signature fruits. Many more towns associate their identity with apples, cherries or walnuts.
Persimmon, Loquat, Date
Every Antalya citizen has its heart in this trio of fruits, so nostalgic of the old days of the city. They’re heavenly in many aspects, whether it be their angelic beauty, their captivating scent, or their eternal taste.
Persimmon, known by the local name amme, has a striking beatuy that catches the eye. Like lanterns hanging from the sky, they almost suspend in the air, barely clinging to the leafless dry branches in fall. Once in a while the almost bursting bombastic fruit frees itself from the branch ending up in an orange slush on the ground. The jelly like sweet flesh is divinely sweet. The persimmon fruit is also known by the name kaki, or referred to as the Date of Paradise. The Latin name has a divine connection to it, Diospyros kaki, meaning Fruit of God.
Loquat blooms in early winter creating a feel of spring in the air. Every garden in the old town has at least one loquat tree, and the heavenly scent of the flowers so belong to the city, that it is nostalgic for many now living in big blocks. The dark green big leaves are adorned with bright orange yellow fruits in early spring, much loved by kids with their tart taste. They are peculiarly known as muşmula locally, which actually means a medlar in Turkish, while the two Turkish names for them means Maltese plum (Malta eriği) , and New World (Yeni Dünya).
Date is mentioned in the Koran as a fruit of paradise. The date palm trees give the city an oriental flair, out of Thousand and One Nights. The fresh date is a taste to remember, much different from the dried one; just as the Chinese date, hünnap, a total pharmacy in a single fruit, laden with medicinal values.
The prickly fruit of the cactus has many names like, opuntia, cactus fig, Indian fig etc. The ripened fruits are sold in street carts, stripped off their spiny peel with a masterly blow of a sharp knife. The gelatinous sweet flesh full of seeds is delightfully refreshing.