Easily one of the happiest discoveries I’ve made since moving to Turkey is how abundant and fantastic its produce is. Friends and family know that my diet for most of my life has left much to be desired, but since living here I’ve really done my best to try embracing new tastes and different foods, and the biggest change is probably in the amount of fresh produce I incorporate into my meals. There’s always a lot of good-quality variety, and I’ve tried a lot of different things since coming here. What’s even better is how easily accessible it is, so if I have strawberries that have seen better days, or if I’m missing spinach for my salad, there are produce carts and storefronts quite literally everywhere I turn, and it seems that arriving in summer was a good time to take advantage of all of the country’s options when it comes to fruits and vegetables.
Of course, my resolution to eat better is made infinitely easier by the fact that everything I’ve tried actually tastes better than it does back home. The flavors, of course, are the same, but they’re amplified in a way that makes eating certain things much more satisfying and enjoyable. Turkey is known for climates and soils that create perfect environments to sustain rich, quality produce, and there really is a noticeable difference in the final product. I’ve never been particularly fond of watermelon, for example, but recently I’ve been eating it almost daily. My mashed potatoes don’t need cream or butter or anything, really, to make them perfectly wonderful. I like biting into onions now. When I had my first bite of a Turkish peach, it made me want to revaluate everything that I had considered good in my life. And when I first had strawberries here, I was reminded of the scene from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory where Gene Wilder presents the lickable wallpaper and no one can believe that everything actually tastes like the real thing. Strawberries in America don’t taste like the real thing, but I never knew that until I tried the real thing here in Turkey. “The strawberries taste like strawberries!” It’s amazing.
My favorite place to buy produce is from a storefront about a block from my apartment. Street carts and grocery stores are also options, but in terms of variety and freshness, dedicated produce shops will always have the best. I also like visiting these places because it helps me practice with numbers and simple phrases in Turkish. If I want a half kilo of strawberries, I ask for it. If I want a smaller eggplant, I say so. If I want to pick out something myself, I let them know. It’s really cool to be able to get exactly what I want without using my hands or speaking any English or nervously consulting Google Translate.
Fruits are still by far my favorite over veggies, and since coming here I’ve developed an addiction to cherries. As for vegetables, you could have spied on me for months before you saw me eat one at home, but here I’m warming up to regularly using things like spinach, eggplant, onion, tomato, carrot, and cucumber (for the record, I’ve determined that the appeal of lettuce and peppers will never make any sense to me). It’s baby steps, but at least they’re headed in the right direction! Here are some of the options available at my regular shop:
Below are the (mostly fruity) spoils of my most recent trip to the produce market. I could only buy what I could carry, so the massive watermelon somewhat limited me, but another trip was bound to happen soon anyway!