Let’s be honest: the pomegranate is one of the best-looking fruits out there. And now that its season is here, you won’t be able to walk a block in Istanbul without seeing it on display.
Not only loved for its good looks, the pomegranate is also associated with a great deal of symbolism. Due to the large number of seeds inside the fruit, pomegranates are widely regarded as a symbol of fertility—brides are presented with whole pomegranates on their wedding day in some parts of Turkey.
Visitors to Istanbul will have no problem finding juice stands selling fresh pomegranate juice (nar suyu) around the city. The juice’s mouthwateringly tart flavor is made even more appealing by its nutritious qualities and a healthy amount of antioxidants. The fruit also serves as a base for pomegranate sour (nar ekşisi), a much-loved syrup that is integral to Turkish cooking and also popular on salads. Be careful of the nar ekşili sos that is common in supermarkets—it can be very low in real pomegranate.
To eat the fruit at home, roll it on a hard surface to loosen the seeds inside. Then make a cut around the middle and twist the fruit in half. Once it’s open, tip the halves over a bowl and hit them with the back of a spoon. The seeds should fall out with a bit of a squeeze, hopefully not making too much of a mess.
If you want to try fresh pomegranate outside, look for menus with gavurdağı salatası; this is a tomato salad with walnut and pomegranate seeds—see our accompanying recipe. Alternatively, try Çiya Sofrası’s zahter salatası, a thyme-based salad that includes tomatoes, walnuts, pomegranate, parsley, onion, and peppers. Güneşli Bahçe Sokak No. 43, Kadıköy; T: (0216) 330 31 90
For dessert, the best option is aşure, a Turkish pudding made with various grains, nuts, dried fruits, and pomegranate seeds — easily found when the fruit is in season. You can try an excellent version of this pudding at Asitane. Kariye Camii Sokak No. 6, Edirnekapı; T: (0212) 635 79 97
Gavurdağ salad recipe
- 5 tomatoes
- 1 cucumber
- 1 pomegranate, deseeded
- 1 ½ red onions
- 1 cup mint, chopped
- 1 cup parsley, chopped
- 1 cup walnuts
- 1 tablespoon sumac
- 2 tablespoons pomegranate sour
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 1 clove garlic
- Salt and pepper to taste
Roast the walnuts in an oven at 180°C until they are slightly darker. Once they are cool, wrap in a tea towel and rub to remove skins, then roughly chop. Core, deseed, and finely dice your tomatoes. Dice your onion and cucumber to match the size of your tomatoes.
For the dressing, crush the garlic into a fine paste and put it in a bowl with the sumac, lemon, olive oil, pomegranate sour, salt, and pepper. Whisk and adjust the seasoning to your taste.
Mix all the other ingredients together in a bowl and pour on the dressing.