In the Aegean region of Turkey, one cannot think of any dinner other than a meal prepared with vegetables or herbs. Having moderate climate conditions, the Aegean region provides available conditions for growing vegetables and herbs. Especially in spring, countrywomen go into the woods to collect herbs for cooking or selling them at bazaars. Local people believe that, as Cretans said, each herb which goats eat is edible; therefore, there are many types of herbs that Aegean women collect and cook. Those herbs can preferably be fried or boiled, but most of the time they are accompanied with yoghurt. As a warning, those herbs should also be consumed in certain proportions in one day.
Here are some herbs and their benefits for health;
Hibiscus (Ebegümeci): It grows in many parts of Anatolia and is cooked with olive oil. Besides cooking, it has a significant role in alternative medicine such as recovering arm or leg injuries, swelling of the skin and boil. It also strengthens nerves when you boil and drink it.
Soleirolia (Arapsaçı): It is called “çumra” in Burdur, “rezdane” in Adana, “sincilip” in Tarsus, “meletüre” in Silifke, “mayana” in Diyarbakır, “sıra” in Bodrum, and “maraho” in Cyprus. Soleirolia has a strong smell which is similar to anise because of the fennel in its leaves. Generally it is cooked with other herbs or it is served as an appetizer to lamb, as Cretans does. Another way to serve Soleirolia is cooking it with shelled broad beans and zucchini. After you boil and saucerize it with lemon, olive oil and garlic; you can serve soleirolia as a salad as well. This is a very easy and practical way to prepare soleirolia. This delicious herb helps digestion and breast-feeding.
Radish leaves (Turp Otu): It is consumed as salad which is prepared by boiling and saucing it with lemon, olive oil and garlic, or with yoghurt and garlic. Turp otu including vitamin C, iodine, and sulphur is cooked with eggs as well. Being one of the favorite foods in Aegean countries, Turp Otu has many benefits for health such as killing the germs in kidneys, helping to pass kidney stones, strengthening liver, helping diuretic. Also it is beneficial to rheumatism, asthma, and bronchitis beside the function of painkiller depending on the reports of local people.
Sea Beans (Deniz Börülcesi): The herb grows with tidal streams’ salty and sour taste. Due to its high proportion of salt, especially after summer and fall, you need to put them into a bowl full of water and wait one day while you are preparing its salad in those seasons. Spring season is the most appropriate time for picking it. However how delicious its salad with garlic and balsamic is, to prepare it is a quite challenging deal. First, you boil sea beans then make them cool down; and then you separate the green part from its awns. Having passed all of the stages, spill them into few parts and sauce the beans. The most important thing you need to be careful about is that you should not put any salt in it, otherwise your salad will be too salty to eat. This amazingly delicious salad helps to thyroid patients because it grows in the field that is rich in iodine. Sea beans are rich in antioxidant and have a significant role for immune system.
Blessed Thistle (Şevket-i Bostan): It is also known as the spotted thistle and seen in nature after January. Blessed Thistle can be prepared in two ways. One can add it into salads or cook it with lamb. According to what local people say, it helps a lot kidney problems and digestion system when you drink its boiled water with an empty stomach, in mornings.
Sour Weed (Kuzu Kulağı): It has a sour and delicious taste, and it is also rich in vitamins A, B, C and minerals such as iron and phosphorus. Sour Weed is known as ekşilik, turşuotu, ebemekşisi, or oğlak kulağı colloquially. Besides it has diuretic, biligenic, antifebrile effects when you boil its roots and drink them afterwards. It includes antioxidants against cancer. This herb served within the salad is used for dermatotherapy. In addition, it stops bleeding. So, if you bleed and have sour weed in your home, do not worry! (Chopping one of your body parts is an exception of course :D)
Radiccho (Radika): The herb is generally known as “karahindiba” which comes from Arabic. It grows in April and May. It is also known as “katagan” among Egypt and Kipchak Turks, “satraçku” among Chagatay Turks and “acıgünek”, “güneyik”, “çıtlık”, and “arslandişi” in Anatolia. Besides its richness in potassium, it is abundant in vitamin A, C and Calcium. It works wonders with coughing, passing kidneys stone and insomnia, and it also helps decreasing hepatomegaly. You can chop its leaves into salad and also its roots, or you can boil its leaves; then, you can sauce them with lemon and olive oil. Additionally, in most countries one can consume it as “karahindiba coffee”, after drying and grinding it.
Urtica (Isırgan): This herb is known as “dalagan” or “dalan” among local people and it is used in various areas for centuries such as cooking and medication. Because of the tiny villus including chemical saliva on its leaves, it hurts your hands when you touch it. This is a kind of defense mechanism of the herb, not something on purpose.. Commonly, people drink its tea, and it is beneficial for coughing, measles, cold, and it regulates the digestion system. Urtica which is one of the most significant ingredients for detox is not only consumed as tea. If you put its leaves on your body part that has muscle pain or arthralgia, you feel less pain compared to the beginning. Besides its tea and its direct use, Turkish people generally cook its leaves with onion and tomato. The oil extracted from its roots contributes to the immune system and reproduction of red blood cells based on a recent research. Also, it is known that it has positive effects for hair growing. On the other hand, it is suggested Urtica should not be used during pregnancy period because of its possible side effects.
Senior student in Boğaziçi University, little big foodie, and mounted archery sporter. But actually just a human being ;)