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Apr 27
Wednesday
Features, Out of Istanbul
Spring Gone Wild: Weeds and Edibles in Alaçati

Deniz börülcesi (samphire, foreground) and şevketibostan (milk  thistle, center) for sale in the Alaçatı market, photo by Jennifer Hattam

They weren’t easy to spot at first: tiny green shoots with reddish roots, scarcely an inch high, poking out of the mud along the banks of a brackish stream near the Aegean town of Alaçatı. From these unpromising beginnings come a dish known to nearly every patron of a Turkish meyhane: nutrient-rich deniz börülcesi (samphire), typically served boiled and dressed with olive oil, lemon, and garlic.

The simple word ot, which translates to “herb” or “weed,” doesn’t do justice to the important – and delicious – role these wild greens play in the cuisine of Turkey’s Aegean region. Though most commonly served as zeytinyağlılar, dishes “with olive oil” like the classic deniz börülcesi salad, their versatility was on full display at the recent Alaçatı Ot Festivali, an annual celebration of all things leafy and green.

Stands set up at the entrance to town were piled high with homemade ot-themed eats, from ısırgan (nettle) bread to kekik (thyme) honey, zeytinyağlı radika (chicory with olive oil) to mallow-flower jam.

Read the rest of this feature at Culinary Backstreets.

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