Grains – vegetables – fruits - herbs
Turkey has a rich biodiversity because this country is located in three important biogeographically regional junction and two important gene centres. Gaziantep also has fertile farmland supporting this biodiversity.
In Gaziantep, the agriculture is done in 370.736 hectares. 195.110 hectares of these areas are used as orchard land and 7.277 hectares are used as vegetable land. Particularly Antep pistachios, olive and grape varieties are grown in the fields. Within 127.087 hectares, 41.735 hectares are occupied by pistachios and olives trees.
It is known that, Antep pistachios have a history about 4000-5000 years. It can be understood that Antep is the name of the region and Antep pistachios, which are a garden products, are an important economic resource. There are nearly 50 millions of pistachio trees in the region.
Its delicacy, oil rate and aroma, Antep Pistachio has been considered as the most beautiful variety of pistachio in the world and the main plant of it is the turpentine trees. According to region and type of pistachio trees, from the first stage to the last stage of the fruit, it has being used in different ways: they are harvested in the early, middle and ripening periods in order to ensure product diversity. In this way, it can meet the different needs of industry that uses pistachio. The most delicious one is called "bird's eye". This pistachio is one of the most expensive pistachios with its aroma and green color. It is preferred by especially baklava, pastry and kadayif shops.
Different sectors have emerged as an industry in the region in order to pistachio becomes goods by converting. Besides exportation, Antep pistachio is consumed as fresh and dried. Antep pistachio has a place and great importance in patisseries, baklava shops, in the chocolate industry, in the production of many kinds of desserts (pistachio sausage, peanut candy, peanut butter, etc.) and in dried nuts and fruits shops. Pistachio jam is a kind of appetizer which is prepared by the pistachio sprouts when the tree is blooming its leaves. In September and October, pistachio is consumed fresh (ben fıstık).
Besides Antep pistachio and olives, there are other specific indigenous products such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, gherkin, radish, carrot, cucumber, haylan (a kind of courgette), winter pumpkin, hairy gherkin, tarragon and saffron. Moreover, various fruits such as apricot, cherry, apple, peach, walnut, fig, mulberry, pomegranate, plum, almond, cherry, pear, melon, watermelon and persimmon are grown in the fertile soil of the region.
In Gaziantep, fresh vegetables are consumed as they are dried. Vineyard leaves are pickled and used in making the stuffed dish. Among the dried vegetables, eggplant shows up forefront as one of the characteristic meals of Gaziantep. Dried eggplant must be Antep eggplant. The specificity of Antep eggplant is small, its color is dark purple, smoothly carved and easily dried. Top of the eggplant is being cut and inside is carved and then it is lined on the rope. It's dried on terraces. The top and green part of the eggplant are separately dried and used in a local dish called "Mıcırık Aşı". Green pepper is like a ball, dark green and spicy. Red peppers and sweet peppers can be dried, if desired. Haylan (kind of courgette) is unique to Gaziantep. But drying haylan is a lot of work. Outside of the courgette is scraped twice in the water. Inside is carved and salted then it is expected to leave its water. When the water is released, it is lined on the rope and left to dry under the sun. Hairy gherkin is also carved and dried. These dried vegetables are generally used to cook for stuffing.
Red pepper is also a specialty and referred by the name of city. Red pepper is a very important product which is considered as paprika paste, sun dried vegetable and chili powder. When it is sun-dried it becomes chili powder by grounding with the machines. Red pepper or tomato, which will be the paste, firstly is washed, sorted, grounded and then it becomes paste in the tray letting it under the sun or boil on the oven. Drying the peppers under the sun is increasing its delicacy. These peppers and pepper pastes are one of the important elements that give flavor to Gaziantep dishes.
Dried mint, tarragon, safflower, sweet red chili and spicy chili pepper powder are being used as a spice in various dishes all year long. During the spring, these products are washed and dried at the shade; the stalks are separated and grounded. These are used in dishes such as tarhın, alaca soup, malhıtalı köfte (with lentils) and vegetables or cheese pastry. Safflower also called "fake saffron" is consumed in the dishes like potatoes with yogurt, rice pastry and some dishes with yogurt and heated butter.
In addition of the drink, there is another kind of zahter, consisting of a spice mixture. It ıs made with watermelon seeds, chickpeas, sesame, sumac syrup, thyme herb, all roasted together. It is generally consumed with olive oil at breakfasts.
The tomatoes are sliced, salted and dried under the sun. Dried tomatoes are called "çarpana". İt is consumed in dishes during the winter.
At springtime, the grass called "pennyroyal" is collected and consumed in some piyaz (white bean salad with onions and vinaigrette). Piyaz is consumed with the main dishes.
Mung bean is also grown in this region. Mung bean piyaz and mung bean soup are the special dishes in Gaziantep. Mung bean is rich in fiber and protein and its salad is one of the easiest and delicious salad made during traditional Turkish bath parties.
Pigweed known in Turkey as semiz otu is also called "pirpirim" in Gaziantep. Pigweed is consumed as fresh in the dishes such as “pirpirim salad”, cacık (yogurt, pigweed and water)" and pirpirim aşı. Pigweed is also dried and consumed during the winter.
Powder or liquid pomegranate sour syrup, unriped grape juice and sumac extract are excessively consumed in the dishes and salads.
Dry food was found to be widespread among the ingredients which are used in Gaziantep cuisine. These are listed as follow; wheat (hinta), barley, flour of barley, corn, white corn, millet, rice, rice paddy, starch, flour, wheat for milling, bulgur (crushed wheat), sesame, black pea, chickpea, lentil and beans.
Oils used in cooking are very important. Special butter called "plain butter" has an unique and privileged place in Gaziantep cuisine. Besides the plain butter; tallow, şerluğan (a kind of cream), olive oil, tamarisk tree oil, hemp and oil wax are being consumed in dishes.