Wild greens known as ‘Ot’ are often referred to as weeds by foreigners. They can be turned into extremely tasty dishes and certainly many are very healthy for us.
I had a lovely experience this week with my neighbours taking me out on an Ot Forage! With the spoils, I had many choices of dishes suggested to me by Hatice and Gulay. We picked so many that I made several dishes including a Bulghur Greens dish, a Weed Pastry or Ot Böreğı and also an Egg Dish which was delicious. The recipes are down below.
As we pack our house to move onto our new boat (for us) and our life changes forever, I start looking around and truly taking in what I have become so accustomed to and perhaps at times taken for granted.
Our little area within a small village is called Aydinlik. This means Light and that is what it truly has been to us. Strangely a few years before, it was called Karanlik meaning Darkness but the name was changed before we ever knew this little hideaway existed.
Our days have been quite routine in one respect. Without fail we have always walked our dog morning and night and from this we have got to know our neighbours so much better. We know which fields they will graze their cows when, and we also have got to know some fishermen, goat herders and our local horse ranch owners quite well too.
There are no nearby markets or shops and everyone stocks up in huge quantities. We have trucks arriving once every 6 weeks or so with 50kg sacks of flour, sugar, rice, semolina and all the usual staples for rural Turkish cuisine. They like this routine and are happy to buy these amounts but we enjoy our weekly trip into town and buy smaller packs of whatever is needed.
None of our neighbours attend the markets although we are spoilt and have one nearly every day of the week within the Fethiye region. Our neighbours are just about all related, one way or another and share everything they have.
Some have hot houses and grow an assortment of vegetables whilst others have cows and make yogurt, ayran and cheese. All of them have chickens and there is an abundance of different varieties of orange and lemon trees and these are strangely available nearly every month of the year.
It is the end of winter now, although I can say all of February has felt like Spring. We have had wonderfully sunny days and mild temperatures. My kitchen even managed to reach 30C inside a few days ago which was extraordinary. In full summer you are probably thinking that it must be impossible to cook in there, but the difference is that we do not have our sun awning up yet and so the full sun is beaming straight in at the moment.
There has been little rain this past year and it has become a major worry. The published figures for the dams and reservoirs are at 26% full at the moment and we can expect a hike in prices soon if the skies don’t open up big time.
Meanwhile, our wild greens known as ‘ot’ in Turkish are in abundance in the fields after a lovely deluge a few days ago and I was chuffed to be invited to join two of my favourite village ladies. I am a true amateur when it comes to this and they kindly shared their spoils with me.
We picked our weeds – Turp Otu and Gelincik (Poppy plants) from a field where olive trees had been planted the previous summer and no sprays or fertilizer had yet been used. They told me that in April it will have its first spraying and so we had to get as much as we could up till then. It was hard to believe we could deplete this crop in that time but we sure were going to give it our best shot.
Turp Otu is also known as Hardal meaning mustard and can be a little bit spicy. It is always boiled for quite a while until it loses its chewiness. Gelincik is the Poppy plant and this can be eaten raw in salads or cooked.
This was the Hardal that we were looking for. The tastiest and best one for cooking. We cut the plant from underneath, cleaned off the dirty root and then sliced off the big end leaves in our hands in a machete movement with a large sharp knife.
As for all wild greens (Ot) which we also quite often call weeds … but nicely edible ones, we can only pick and eat them providing there are no seeds yet. Once the plant begins to seed or have flowers it must not be consumed. I am not sure of the consequences but I have been firmly told to avoid picking them in that state.
As you can see, with this amazing kindness and pure sweetness it is more than hard to leave this little paradise, however the sea beckons and I do hope to come back often and see these wonderful people who opened their hearts to us and call us family.
As we picked so many weeds, we had many dishes to try out. Whilst Gulay whipped up Gözleme, Hatice gave me the following suggestions:
Turp Otu and Eggs
Fry an onion. Once soft add the chopped, boiled and tightly squeezed out Turp Otu to the onion. Add some chilli flakes, salt and pepper. Stir and then add 2 broken eggs. Stir around until cooked and serve. Check for salt as this weed often needs a fair bit.
Turp Otu / Hardal Salata This dish is also good for Spinach.
Cut and clean the greens, boil with water and salt for 20 to 30 minutes until no longer tough. You may need to test this in your teeth rather than just pricking it with a fork.
Drain the ot then make a salad. Mix a dressing of 2 cloves of crushed garlic, 3 to 4 Tbsp olive oil, Juice of a half a lemon or more, chilli flakes to taste and 1 tsp of water. Mix well and toss through the cut greens. Add 1/2 a chopped raw onion if desired.
Gelincik Bulgur Dish
Fry an onion in a little oil, add the cut and cleaned greens. Sprinkle over 1 Tbsp of bulgur, add 1/2 to 1 tsp salt, chilli flakes. Cover with a lid and heat slowly for 10 minutes. Do not cook it too long as it will spoil. Drop in 2 cloves of crushed garlic at the end and stir. Serve.
We enjoyed this village dish very much and hope you will too. Some substitute suggestions would include nettles (young and not seeded), spinach, pazi – beet and similar types of greens, however, Turp Otu or Hardal is not really suitable for this dish as it is a tougher weed and needs too long to cook. The bulghur would be ruined.
Cut the greens very finely, mix salt through it with your hands. Add 1/2 chopped raw onion, olive oil and pomegranate syrup.
Here’s hoping that you find a field to frollick in and have lots of luck in finding some nice edible wild greens. It is very important to make sure that the fields have not been recently sprayed otherwise any goodness you thought you might absorb might end up being quite the opposite!