Tasty Flowers: Poppy and Rose
Crossing the Taurus mountains reaching inland, the climate and lanscape changes. The crops cultivated reflect this change from Mediterranean to Continental climate. Now this is the land of wheats and grains, of plump cherries and delicious apples. However the most significant crops of the region come in flower form. The provinces of Burdur and Isparta are famous for their poppies and roses. The purple and white opium poopy fields and pink rose gardens paint the landscape into a dream like romantic picture. These two particular flowers have interesting culinary aspects.
Opium poppy is cultivated in Anatolia since millenia. All fertility godesses like Demeter, Artemisia bear a poppy pod and a bundle of wheat ears as symbols of prosperity and bountiness. Poppy seed is a much loved baking ingredient, but the use of the seed goes well beyond a sprinkle on bread roll. Chrushed poppy seed paste is spread between layers of dough in sweet or savoury baking. The paste is mixed with ground walnuts in kömbe or nokul, two regional rolls, sometimes savoury with crumbled cheese, sometimes sweet with sugar. One sweet version from Isparta also incorporates dried rose leaves to achieve a more aromatic roll.
Poppy oil is also used in local cooking, especially baking. Another effect of poppies in regional cooking is in dairy products. The cattle and water buffoloes fed with poppy seed fodder produce the most wonderful buttery milk, and the quality of yoghurt and clotted cream of the region proves this.
Rose fields in late spring is a phenomenon of Isparta landscape. The first rose plants were brought to Isparta from the Kazan region of Bulgaria in the 19th century. The cultivation proved to be very successfull and today, together with Burdur, these two cities lead the world market in the manufacture of rose oil. Rose water is a by-product of rose oil distillation and has a great place in Ottoman court cuisine. Many puddings based on grains like the rice pudding zerde, and the wheat-berry pudding aşure, are always flavoured with rose water, as are milk based puddings. Rose petal jam with clotted cream makes any breakfast table out of this world, and fragrant morsels of rose flavoured Turkish delight is the perfect accompaniment to Turkish coffee.
5 cups water125 g fragrant red rose petals
1 cup sugar
-Gently wash and drain the rose petals.
-Put the rose petals and sugar in a big bowl. Mix thoroughly rubbing with your fingers, as if kneading a dough.
-When completely amalgamated to a paste like mass, add the water and lemon juice and stir until the sugar dissolves completely.
-Transfer to a caraffe with lid, or a wide neck bottle. Let stand in the fridge at least 4-5 hours or overnight.
-Before serving strain through a muslin cloth or fine mesh strainer. Serve on chrushed ice in crysal glasses.
500 g fragrant Damascene rose petals
7 cups sugar
3 cups water
4 tablespoons lemon juice
-Snip off the white pointed ends of rose petals. Gently wash and drain the petals.
-Put in a big bowl and add the sugar and the lemon juice. Rub the rose petals with the sugar like kneading a dough. When completely amalgamated to a paste like mass set aside for a couple of hours or overnight.
-Transfer to a heavy pan and add the water. Simmer on medium heat until thickens to jam consistency. Remove the scum that forms on the surface.
-When the jam becomes thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, remove from the heat.
-Transfer to sterilized jars while still hot. Put the lids on and leave to cool. Keep the wars in a cool, dry and dark place.