There are many wondrous weeds (known as ‘ot’ in Turkish) to buy in the markets at the moment and I am guessing that many of you will not have a clue what they are. I certainly didn’t.
OK, I recognised the bunches of nettles with their prickly leaves but not even the asparagus resembles what I grew up with, back home.
I am hoping that I can enlighten you on a few of these wondrous plants now that my adorable village gals (pictured further down) have taken me under their wing, as I was in a bit of a quandary myself. However, after some extensive research and a few field trips with them, I feel I am finally getting somewhere.
My main sources have been, as usual, the steadfast village neighbours with their recipes that are only in their heads and have been passed on from generation to generation, with very little adaptation along the way.
So here are the ‘ot’ that I discovered in the markets and further down are a few recipes to cover most occasions. Of course, there are many ways to cook these, but these are the two most common ways to cook these delicious and very nutritious weeds.
At the very end of the post, I have listed the supposed benefits of each weed, where I have been able to extract info from my hill top research team and where not, the internet has assisted.
My wonderful ladies of the hill, who sell me their steaming milk, bring me their delicious golden yolked eggs and call us for glasses of cay when their cows are back in their stall, whip up ‘ot’ (weed) dishes regularly and we have found them to be extremely delicious.
By consensus, there seems to be mainly two ways to cook these ‘ot’ as a main meal, no matter how different they look, grow or taste. When one asks at the market how to eat them, nearly always I am hit with the same answer, olive oil and eggs or bulgur. Err, yes, but how?
So now, after annoying my sweet village gals yet again, the method has been revealed with a few variations. May I say, that these recipes need not be restricted to ‘ot’ but can also be followed for spinach, chard, leeks and virtually any greens you wish to cook.
- ½ kg greens / weed
- 1 large finely chopped onion
- ½ cup coarse bulgur
- 1 dsp tomato paste
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 1 tsp butter
- 1 tsp tomato paste or hot pepper paste
- 1 cup yogurt
- 1 clove crushed garlic
- ¼ tsp salt
- Fry the onion till golden in oil
- Add the tomato paste and lighly fry
- Add the chopped greens and bulgur
- Add salt to taste (some weeds vary a lot regarding how much salt is needed)
- Pour in 1 cup water
- Bring to boil then turn to low and simmer minimum 10 to 15 minutes and longer for thicker vegetables / weeds.
- To make butter sauce, in a small pan place 2 tsp butter with 1 tsp tomato paste or hot pepper paste and let it bubble for 2 mins, stirring continuously
- Serve with yogurt mixed with a ¼ tsp salt and a crushed garlic clove
- Pour butter sauce over yogurt
- 1 bunch greens / weed / ot (probably around 250g)
- 1 finely chopped onion
- 3 eggs or more
- Olive oil
- Red pepper flakes / pul biber
- Wash the greens well and chop finely
- Fry the onion in olive oil until transparent
- Add the greens, salt and red pepper and cook gently for 10 to 15 minutes
- Now you have a choice how to deal with the eggs
- a) beat the eggs then add them to the dish, stirring continually until cooked through to your taste or
- b) crack the eggs on top, continue cooking gently until cooked through
When cooking ‘gozleme’ – the flat Turkish filled breads, ‘ot’ are regularly used, mixing them with a little white cheese. The village gozleme are absolutely way and beyond the best we have ever tasted. Some of these ‘ot’ are unbeatable for flavour and the village ladies will usually make a mix up, of 2 or 3 different kinds and a bit of parsley thrown in as well for good measure.
WEEDS – WHAT ARE THEY GOOD FOR? ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING!
My Ladies of the Hill are wonderfully helpful but sometimes they simply do not know the answers. The list below of the Benefits of Weeds is from a variety of sources and I cannot be sure how reliable it is.
Isırgan / Nettle leaf is most commonly used to treat pain, osteoarthritis, allergies and hay fever as well as being a diuretic. Also, cooled nettle tea used to rinse your hair can make it really shiny.
Çiriş / Fake Leek and also the Körmen / Fake Garlic plant are very similar and have the same health benefits described below.
High in Vitamin C, they strengthen the immune system and help during menstruation. Can be used to cure urinary tract infections. Help with skin conditions such as acne, reduce hair loss. Help treat hemorrhoids. Increases milk during breastfeeding.
Kuşkonmaz / Wild Asparagus
This is another Wonder Weed with its high antioxident levels, high in folate which is important for pregnant mothers. It reduces the risk of colon cancer. High in fibre and very low in calories. Aids digestion and improves nutrient absorption in the intestine. Prevents kidney stones. Improves skin condition and helps prevent sun damage. Prevents cognitive decline. Slows the ageing process. Lowers risk of diabetes. Regulates blood sugar. It is extremely high in Vitamin K and lowers the risk of heart disease.
Çitlenbik or Çitlembik the plant & Menengiç or Melengiç the berries
This apparently helps people gain weight, stops foot odour, helps wounds heal quicker, lets kidneys remove grit before becoming stones, can stop stomach pain and reduce coughing.
Gelincik / Poppy leaves and flowers
Mainly this plant can be used as a mild sedative, as well as nerves in the stomach and indigestion, it helps treat anxiety. (This sort of makes sense considering opium, a relaxant, is harvested from opium poppies which have some similar properties.) It helps cure insomnia. It helps with coughs, colds, throat and chest pain.
Karabaş / Fake Lavender – drunk as a tea, it is used to treat diabetes the market stall holder told me.
Radika / Dandelion
Helps remove kidney stones and cleanses the kidneys, liver and blood. Can help cure chronic hepatitis. It is good for eczema and skin irritations. It can regulate stomach fluids and act as a laxative.
Sarı Ot / Yellow Weed is the direct translation. I have been unable to discover the name in English – Reduces fever and helps with pain as well as used to treat rheumatism.
Yemlik – I have sadly failed to find the English name for this weed as well. A few sites suggested that the Latin name was Scorzonera but then when I looked that up, it turned out to be marijuana. Clearly one can see that there is no similarity between the two of these. If anyone can enlighten me on this, I would be very grateful.
It is high in Vitamins A, E, C, B2 and B6 as well as iron and calcium. It helps with anaemia and can strengthen the metabolism and give you an appetite. It is best used in salads for digestion. It helps with eyesight and night blindness. It is a good supplement for skin, hair and nails. It helps wounds heal and can help with migraine headaches.
Ebegurmeci / Common Mallow
High in iron, zinc and many vitamins, it is a common weed found across the globe.
It makes an excellent mouthwash and is a plaque inhibitor. Good for pharyngitis and tonsillitis. Can help with boils and wounds. Relieves swollen feet. Helps with nose bleeds. Stops constipation. Prevents nausea and vomiting. Reduces fever.
Şevketi bostan /Blessed Thistle / Holy Thistle / St Benedict’s Thistle / Cnicus Benedictus in Latin
This weed looks similar to the milk thistle however the flower is yellow and not purple and it is grows to around 30 cm high compared to its well known cousin that can grow to 2 metres.
Blessed Thistle stimulates the production of bile, aids in fat digestion, lowers cholesterol, prevents gall stones and can detox the liver. In large quantities it can cause vomiting however. It can be used to treat nausea, flatulence and bloating. It can create an appetite and is used against anorexia. It is an oxygenator and can help the heart, brain and memory functions and has anti-cancer agents. It aids in menstrual pain and menstruation headaches. It aids breastfeeding and is a very common helper for this with large success.
WEEDING IN THE FUTURE
I hope ‘weeding’ will take on a completely different meaning for you now, and you can enjoy it as much as I do. I liken it to rummaging in a good flea market. You never know what you will find, but often there are treasures just waiting to be discovered.