Kumluca: Greenhouse capital
Wilco van HERPEN
In Turkey people in villages do have a modern house but most people prepare food outside or in the closed extension of the house. They prefer to sit on the floor while eating, using a big tray with short legs as a table.Kumluca in the southern province of Antalya is one of those places that doesn’t really appeal to me. I’ve been there twice now and twice I have not known what to think of it. As far as I could see it did not have any history, nice old houses, or a rich culture. I’m convinced it must be there, but I’ve not been able to find it yet. Still, Kumluca is an important place for a lot of people because it is the capital of greenhouses. Every year it holds a festival, but the reason for me to be there this time was the weather. How do farmers deal with the cold weather and what are they doing to prevent their crops being lost or frozen?
During the day I went to a woman who lives about a half-hour drive from Kumluca. She lives there with her husband and daughter and has a small farm. It’s a big place for anybody to work in, but at the moment it is huge for the woman who has to do all the work herself. Her husband had an operation last week and her daughter broke her leg, so now the woman is on her own. During the day she looks after the vegetables that grow in her greenhouse and during the night she tries to prevent her tomatoes and sweet peppers from freezing. People in this region place big oil drums in the greenhouses with a simple but practically-made door, and then put meters-long pipes running throughout the whole greenhouse. Because gas is expensive, the farmers use coal or wood; what I have seen is that recently most people are using wood as even coal is too expensive.
Big financial loss
When I met the woman she had not slept for four days, as she had to feed the hungry heaters. For a woman on her own this isn’t easy. Big, heavy pieces of wood have to be thrown into the drums constantly, because if the temperature of the greenhouse drops below zero degrees it would be a big financial loss for the woman. She worked so hard that her hands were injured by all the fire wood she had to throw in the drums, but she thanked God that only a few of her tomato plants were touched by the frost. She told me that she always used the vegetables that she grew to make her food and asked me whether I was hungry. It was already 1 o’clock in the afternoon and I began to hear some strange sounds coming from my stomach. Grateful, I accepted her offer and together we picked some of the vegetables that were growing in her greenhouse. Half of the sweet red peppers and a couple of eggplants that she had picked were thrown onto the hot ashes of the oil drum. Within a couple of minutes the beautiful caramelized smell of fresh cooked pepper entered my nose. “This is going to be a salad, and for this salad I will have to take the skin of the pepper,” she told me. When you put the pepper on the hot ash this ash also gives the pepper its characteristic smell.
Shortly after, we left the greenhouse with a plate of the “burned” red pepper, a bag full of fresh sweet red peppers, eggplant, parsley, spinach and an unknown herb all in my hands. At home the woman started preparing the food right away - there was no time to lose. Attached to her house was a kind of veranda closed with plastic because it was winter now. In the corner of the veranda there was a kind of fireplace where she made her food. In Turkey a lot of the people in villages do have a modern house with beautiful kitchens, but I noticed that most people do not like to work in the kitchen. They prefer to prepare food outside or, as in this case, in the closed extension of the house.
Sitting on the floor, she kneaded the dough for the spinach bread, started with the filling for the stuffed peppers right after that, and then made two beautiful salads. One of the herbs that she used for a salad she called “kokulu ot,” or “smelly herb,” but when I asked her what its official name was she told me: “kokulu ot.” My crew didn’t know the name either, so I must apologize - I can’t help you with the more familiar name. The taste of the salad was simply awesome though - it was still “al dente” and had a beautiful flavor.
Eating on the floor
Within no time the woman had prepared five dishes and about one hour later it was time to set the table. As you may know, generally people in the villages do not sit at the table but prefer to sit on the floor while eating, using a big tray with short legs as a table. Everybody sits with his or her legs crossed around this table and eats.
The food is served on different plates and you eat all from the same plates. For some people that is something impossible to do, but I always feel very comfortable when I am eating like this. The food was great, I enjoyed eating all the different dishes and ate until I could not manage another bite. In the meantime the woman prepared some tea, of course prepared on the fire that was still burning. Let me tell you, drinking such tea is quite an experience - the taste is so different. Before I left the woman gave me a big bag of peppers. For me, this is Turkey - this is why I like village life.