Seasonal food and seasonal eating is a huge part of our life in Turkey and was one of the main elements that excited us about starting a life here.
Even now, all these years later, we still love to wander around our local markets, buy up lots of seasonal produce (completely neglecting to accept we’re just two people) and then explore different recipes when we get home.
Of course, we had local seasonal food in the UK – there’s so much great produce there, too – but by the time we bought our first house together, it had to be an active decision to source it and buy it (we used to get a mixed vegetable box delivered to the house, weekly).
The power of supermarkets mean that produce from all over the world is available, year round, on tap.
Yes, packaged and imported fruits and vegetables are increasingly common in the bigger supermarkets in Turkey. But for now, at least in our area, the pazar (market) and local traders reign. And we’ll definitely continue to do our bit to try and make sure that remains the case.
Why wouldn’t we? It’s exciting to eat seasonally. Why?
Why Is It Important To Eat Seasonally?
- First of all, it promotes a healthy lifestyle. Seasonal eating is going to make a huge contribution to your 5-a-day and lots of the foods you will be choosing are going to be superfoods.
- There’s anticipation as you catch that first sighting of your favourite fruit and vegetables on the market – but you just buy a little of it this week because the price is still so high.
- There’s the comfort of knowing the stalls are going to be piled high with that produce for the next few weeks – by now, it’s cheap and it’s plentiful and your mind is working overtime on both Turkish recipe ideas and any other international dishes that celebrate that seasonal fruit or vegetable.
- As the season starts to change, so does the look of the stalls at the pazar and roadside stands. A change of produce and a change of colours.
- That means a change in the way you eat. As the seasons change, so does your diet. Light salads and cold meze become wholesome comforting soups and casseroles as summer turns to winter. Yes, there’s a bit of year-round mixing and matching but a diet that’s pretty much dictated by the seasons – we love it!
- Seasonal eating means tastier meals. The food tastes better. It’s not been picked before it has ripened and transported thousands of miles.
- Most of the food is grown locally (or at least within the country) so, when you buy it, you’re supporting local.
- For us, personally, it’s really forced/encouraged us to experiment more in the kitchen with recipes we would never have considered. And then, over time, that builds up a broader understanding of the relationships between different foods.
Seasonal Eating In Southwest Turkey
So, if seasonal eating is your thing and you love to shop at the markets and local greengrocers for your produce – or you love to grow your own – what seasonal food are you likely to see and when are you likely to see it?
A few points to note before we kick off proceedings:
- First of all, Turkey has a large landmass with hugely differing climates which dictate the local produce of different areas. This article is about the produce you are likely to see on the markets of southwest Turkey where the Aegean meets the Mediterranean.
- For us, personally, we do the bulk of our shopping at Fethiye Tuesday market, the Çalış Sunday market, the Fethiye Fish Market (incorporating the fruit and vegetables hall) and the Friday Village Market on the same site as the Tuesday market.
- For a true seasonal produce experience, get yourself to the Friday market if you’re in the area.
- Some of the produce we’re about to list below is available year-round. If it’s listed under a particular season, this is when it is at its best. And, of course, there will be a crossover between seasons.
Seasonal Eating In Spring
No difference to anywhere else in the world – springtime seasonal food in Turkey is wonderfully abundant when pitched against its fellow seasons. It’s a time of nature’s awakening and your seasonal eating menu is going to be bursting with variety.
As you might expect, this is the longest list of the four seasons so your seasonal eating diet is going to be packed with variety. Let’s go alphabetical order:
Spring Vegetables & Salad Stuffs
- Aubergines (Patlıcan) – Available year-round but now is the time for the firm babies. They’re not huge and glossy. They’re firm and meaty and now is the time to start experimenting with the myriad of Turkish aubergine dishes!
- Broad beans (Bakla) – in March, broad beans are young and you can eat the whole thing (pod and all) in dishes like our broad bean and sucuk dish. As they get bigger throughout spring, pod and peel them for wonderfully flavoursome broad bean salads (iç bakla salatası).
- Chard (Pazı)
- Courgettes (Kabak) – Available year-round but young and firm in springtime and you’ll also see the vibrant sunshine-coloured courgette flowers for sale, too. Add courgettes to salads or make the classic Turkish courgette fritters.
- Çiriş otu – No English translation, sorry. Maybe a member of the asphodel family, çiriş appears on the markets as the winter snow starts to melt from the mountain tops. Great for çiriş bulgur dishes and börek. Use it in place of spinach or leek stems.
- Cucumber (Badem salatalık) – You’re never going to be without a cucumber in southwest Turkey. In spring, however, they’re tiny – young and firm and sweet! Love it as it is as one of the plates that make up your traditional Turkish breakfast. And, of course, you’re going to make cacık. Cucumber is an ingredient in many Turkish salads and is essential in the famous Turkish shepherd’s salad; çoban salatası.
- Fennel (Rezene) – We’d never seen any fennel on the markets in our area until 2021. We hope it becomes a regular feature.
- Fresh herbs and salad leaves (Yeşillik) – Available year-round but with more variety in spring. Fresh mint (nane), basil (fesleğen) and purple basil (reyhan) are all abundant. As are various leaves, the names of which still remain a mystery to this day. They’re often just grouped under ‘yeşillik’ (edible greens). If you like to forage and make your seasonal eating free, mallow (ebegümeci) also grows along the roadsides in April and May.
- Garlic (Sarmısak) – We’re talking huge bulbs of locally grown fresh garlic. We use some in their fresh state but also leave bulbs outside to dry.
- Globe artichokes (Enginar) – We love the look of an artichoke cloaked in its armour. The flavour and texture, we can take or leave.
- Green beans (Taze fasulye) – Available all year but particularly fresh and plentiful in spring. Make the classic Turkish dish, green beans in olive oil or try our green bean and white cheese salad.
- Lettuce (Marul) – You’ll see lettuce, rocket and other leaves year-round but everything is young, fresh and new in spring.
- Morel mushrooms (Kuzu göbeği) – A real seasonal eating treat. Keep it simple by dipping your morels in egg before frying. The Üzümlü Mushroom Festival takes place in honour of the morel.
- Okra (Bamya) – Lots of health benefits to okra. If you thought you didn’t like it, give this Turkish okra recipe a go.
- Peas (Bezelye) – These delicate, crisp pea pods are great in salads and stir-fries.
- Peppers (Biber) – Available year-round but springtime is prime time! The smell of fresh peppers piled high on a stall is magical!
- Potatoes (Patates) – Available year-round but springtime is new potato season in southwest Turkey. We love to buy up the baby ones, give them a quick scrub and make a Turkish potato salad with them.
- Purslane (Semizotu) – You can buy huge bunches of semizotu in spring. Make purslane salad (semizotu salatası) or use it like spinach to add to other dishes.
- Samphire (Deniz börülcesi) – A perfect seafood meze: Samphire in yoghurt or also dressed in olive oil, lemon and garlic.
- Sorrel (Kuzu Kulağı) – Lauded by various famous British chefs, we’ve only recently discovered sorrel in Southwest Turkey. Yet to experiment with it. ‘Kuzu kulağı’ means ‘lamb ear.’
- Spinach (Ispanak) – Again, you can buy spinach year-round but now is the season for the more delicate, younger spinach leaves. A classic Turkish dish is ıspanaklı yumurta. And don’t throw those stems away. Spinach stem salads are so tasty.
- Sweetcorn (Mısır) – Time to light the barbecue and get those corn on the cobs sizzling.
- Tomato varieties (Domates) – look out for new season köy domates (village tomatoes) pembe domates (pink tomatoes), çeri domates (cherry tomatoes) and çikolata domates (chocolate tomatoes). You’ll get quality tomatoes year-round on the markets around these parts (it’s a tomato-growing region) but these are some spring treats to look out for.
- Unripe almonds (Çağla) – A much-loved snack in these parts. Some people also pickle them.
- Vine leaves (Üzüm yaprağı) – sold to make yaprak sarma: stuffed vine leaves.
- Wild asparagus (Kuşkonmaz) – Wild asparagus in Turkey is not going to be like the firm spears you might be used to elsewhere. It’s more delicate and the flavour is stunning. Look out for it on market stalls standing in buckets of water.
If you love making jams and preserves, spring is a real treat for the variety of fruits available. Or you can just enjoy the fruits as they are.
Lots of communal gardens and roadsides have fruit trees so you might not even have to buy them from the markets or local greengrocers.
- Apricots (Kayısı) – Late spring is when these tempters appear.
- Bananas (Muz) – Look for the ‘yerli’ (local) writing on the handwritten labels of the market stalls.
- Cherries (Kiraz) – We don’t do much with cherries. They’re highly anticipated and very much welcomed when they appear on the markets in late May through to the summer months. In our local area, look out for Nif Napolyon cherries. Fabulous! We buy them by the kilo!
- Greengage (Erik) – Dip your erik in salt before taking a bite and it’s doable. An acquired taste that some never acquire but others love. Erik tavası is a Turkish savoury dish if you want to cook it.
- Loquats (Yeni Dünya / Malta Eriği) – Lovely and sweet. Eat them as they are or go savoury-sweet and make this Gaziantep Yeni Dünya Kebab.
- Mulberries (Dut) – There are oodles of mulberry trees lining the streets of Fethiye. Buy them from the markets to enjoy as they are, to make juice and jam – or to do a seasonal fro yo!
- Strawberries (Çilek) – Look out for local (yerli) strawberries around this time. In Fethiye, April and May are a good time for local strawberries. This is when we make our breakfast strawberry tarts and strawberry sandwiches.
Seasonal Eating In Summer
In southwest Turkey, the summer months are often blisteringly hot and that definitely has an effect on the appetite. Fortunately, the seasonal fruit and vegetables are only too aware of this.
That’s the joy of seasonal eating – what your body is craving is often matched by what nature is producing.
There’ll be all the year-round staples and some crossover from the seasonal fruit and vegetables of springtime and autumn. On top of all of that, your summer seasonal eating will allow you to indulge in:
- Borlotti Beans (Barbunya) – You’ll start to see these beans in late spring but summer is their heyday. A famous Turkish borlotti bean stew (barbunya pilaki) is one of our favourite summer dishes.
- Fresh chillies (Acı biber) – again, available at other times of the year, but summer is the time where you can really buy in bulk.
- Tomatoes (Domates) – Technically a fruit, we know. Huge misshapen tomatoes – and they’re all so tasty and juicy. They get an extra mention, here, just because they’re so prevalent. Antep Ezmesi is a tasty, summery meze that makes good use of summer tomatoes.
Summer Seasonal Fruit
- Blackberries and raspberries (Böğürtlen and ahududu) – Not very common in these parts but they do grow on higher grounds and are starting to appear on the markets.
- Fresh figs (İncir)
- Melon varieties (Karpuz, Kavun) – The summer melons in Turkey are huge! So refreshing to enjoy on its own (and sometimes served ‘on the house’ in restaurants). We also eat lots of melon salad during the summer.
- Peaches and nectarines (Şeftali, Nektarin) – Again, when it’s hot, hot, hot, a huge, juicy peach or nectarine is so satisfying. We cook with them, too, and also love a simple nectarine breakfast with two other local products; yoghurt and honey.
Seasonal Eating In Autumn
Again, all the staples are widely available and there’ll be some crossover from the later summer months. Generally, though, your autumnal seasonal eating in Southwest Turkey will include:
Autumn Seasonal Vegetables
- Beetroot (Pancar) – At its best in the autumn months. We love to pickle it.
- Chayote squash (Rodos kabağı) – A Turkish friend told us how to do this chayote squash recipe.
- Pumpkin (Balkabağı) – Used in Turkey as a dessert, if we buy a pumpkin, it’s for pumpkin soup or we roast it as an accompaniment.
- Saffron Milk Cap mushrooms (Çıntar / Kanlıca) – This much loved, and much sought after, mushroom appears after the first Autumn rains. A wet autumn/winter will see this mushroom appear in abundance. Great in a mushroom risotto or kept simple with the classic garlic mushrooms on toast.
- For pickles (Turşuluk) – This is a group of mixed vegetables that are often sold together at this time of year under the description, ‘turşuluk.’ These are all the autumnal veggies you buy in bulk for preserving by way of making huge tubs and jars of homemade Turkish pickles.
- For salça (Salçalık) – Salça is either tomato paste or red pepper paste. In the autumn months, the glut of tomatoes and red peppers are piled high on market stalls for people to buy up and make their own pastes. We use these to make our homemade ketchup, Turkish kahvaltılık sos.
Autumn Seasonal Fruit
- Grapes (Üzüm) – Huge piles of them! If you don’t like the seeds in your grapes, look out for ‘çekirdeksiz’ (seedless) on the label.
- Myrtle berries (Mersin) – Not something we have ever experimented with.
- Pears (Armut) – Crisp autumn pears straight from the tree. Perfect!
- Plums (Erik) – Often one of the ingredients in our homemade chutney, ready for Christmas.
Seasonal Eating In Winter
If you thought life in Southwest Turkey might slow right down when it comes to seasonal eating, think again. We love winter and all it has to offer in the culinary department. Here are a few seasonal treats to look out for during the colder months.
Winter Seasonal Vegetables
- Broccoli (Brokoli) – Try this simple broccoli meze or make a wholesome winter broccoli soup. And if you want to inject a bit of colour into a grey winter’s day, try our broccoli frittata.
- Brussels Sprouts (Brüksel Lahanası) – The Brussels Sprout appears to be enjoying a bit of a popularity surge at the moment. As it well should! Try Brussels and chestnuts sauteed with sucuk. Brussels sprouts with yoghurt sauce – we do all sorts of dishes with them.
- Cabbage (Lahana) – You will see cabbage at other times of year but, in winter, cabbage is king. Pickled red cabbage, coleslaw. And if you’ve got a huge green cabbage and you’re wondering what to do with it, get into the spirit of winter seasonal eating with our recipe for kapuska!
- Cauliflower (Karnabahar) – Plump white cauliflowers weigh down the market stalls at this time of year. We love to make this simple, healthy Turkish cauliflower stew as well as experimenting with lots of other dishes, too. Roasted cauliflower is a real treat!
- Celeriac (Kereviz) – We cook with kereviz a lot but are yet to grace the blog with any of our recipes. We’ll put that right soon…
- Chestnuts (Kestane) – The sweet taste of winter!
- Collard greens (Kara lahana) – Popular in the Black Sea regions but only sometimes seen on the markets around our local area.
- Radish (Turp) – These are not the little pretty red radishes you might be more familiar with. They’re much bigger. There are also black radishes (kara turp). Slice them thinly or grate them for salads.
- Romanesco cauliflower (Romanesco karnabahar) – Worth buying just to look at and amaze yourself at the wonder of nature (their spirals form Fibonacci sequences, don’t you know!) We’ve made soup and salads with it.
- Spinach (Ispanak) – Out with the delicate leaves of springtime and in with the robust, muddy leaves of winter.
Winter Seasonal Fruit
- Apples (Elma) – Again, available year-round but in abundance in the winter months. Turkey’s main apple-growing region is around Eğirdir.
- Avocado (Avokado) – For those of us in Fethiye, avocado is grown locally and is available in the winter months. At other times of the year, it is often imported so check before you buy if you want to buy local. Homemade guacamole is our favourite avocado dish.
- Bananas (Muz) – Available all year but local bananas are to be had at this time of year.
- Citrus fruit (Narenciye) – Winter is time for local oranges (portakal), lemons (limon), tangerines (mandalina) and grapefruit (greyfurt). Stalls of the markets are piled high with them. Head towards Dalyan and Köyceğiz (where lots of our local citrus fruits are grown) on the D400 road and it’s such a treat to stop at one of the many roadside stalls to buy as much fruit as you can handle. Head towards Bodrum and you’ll likely see bergamot for sale – the citrus fruit used to make Early Grey tea.
- Jerusalem artichokes (Yer elması) – Yet to investigate the world of the Jerusalem artichoke.
- Kumquat (Kumkuat)
- Persimmon (Hurma) – Never did we like persimmon. It was the one fruit we just couldn’t get with. And then Christmas 2020 came along and we had roast duck. We decided to make crispy duck pancakes with the leftovers and make our own plum sauce. No plums available so we substituted with persimmon. It’s a winner!
- Pomegranate (Nar) – We love pomegranate season! As well as adding the juicy pomegranate jewels to various dishes, we also love nar ekşisi (sour pomegranate molasses) for salads like Gavurdağı Salatası.
- Quince (Ayva) – Lots of people make a quince dessert or jam with these but we like to use them in savoury dishes.
Seasonal Eating – A Special Mention For Seafood
Seasonal Eating doesn’t have to be just about fruits, vegetables, fungi and nuts. We just want to give a special mention to seafood.
Even in the Southwest Turkey region, fish catch will differ from area to area, so it’s a case of visiting your local fish market to see what’s available. As with seasonal fruit and vegetables, prices will fluctuate.
There are seafoods that are available year-round and some markets also offer farmed fish. In our local area, sea bass (Levrek) sea bream (Çupra / Çipura) and grey mullet (Kefal) are available year-round. Calamari and prawns are available for most of the year. With regards prawns; size, quantity, variety and prices vary greatly.
For seafood seasonal eating treats, look out for:
Summer Seasonal Seafood
- Blue crabs (Mavi yengeç)
- Leerfish (Akya) – A steak-like fish, perfect for casseroles and stews as well as putting onto skewers for şiş kebabs.
- Sardines (Sardalya)
- Swordfish (Kılıç) – As with akya, swordfish steaks and swordfish şiş kebabs are perfect!
Autumn Seasonal Seafood
- Mullus barbatus or ‘Red mullet’ (Barbun)
Winter Seasonal Seafood
- Anchovies (Hamsi) – If you read this blog a lot, you’ll know how much we love hamsi season!
- Bonito (Palamut)
- Grouper (Orfoz) – Grouper numbers are protected at the moment. Those who do catch them tend to be fishermen fishing underwater with spears.
- Mackerel (Uskumru) – There are also fish called istavrit, sarı kanat (yellow wing) and çinekop which are a part of the mackerel family.
- Turbot (Kalkan)
Depending on where you are in Turkey, you will see different types of seafood and freshwater fish. Some of the seafood listed above, although seasonal, isn’t necessarily local. Hamsi, for instance, is transported from the Black Sea.
Do You Eat Seasonally?
And there we have it. Our comprehensive guide to some of the ingredients that make seasonal eating such a pleasurable pastime in southwest Turkey.
We’re not going to pretend we’ve gone all out for a 100% seasonal diet. We know we’re lucky with where we live and it makes life much easier. Our diet is more seasonal almost by default.
As supermarkets introduce more produce to their ranges, we’re sure we’ll be buying the odd imported fruit or vegetable that we can’t get elsewhere. And that’s fine with us. As long as that remains a treat and local produce is the staple.
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