The pistachio may be the nut most people associate with Turkey, but in the country's northern Black Sea region, it's the hazelnut that rules. Turkey, in fact, is the world's largest producer of hazelnuts, and in the verdant Black Sea region the nut is a major driver of the local economy and an important part of the area's cuisine.
Robyn Eckhardt and David Hagerman, the team behind the indispensable EatingAsia blog, are currently traveling through the Black Sea region and have just filed a wonderful report about their hazelnut-oriented adventures. From their post:
Driving into Giresun from the east along the four-lane highway, we passed fındık fabrikası (hazelnut processing facility) after fındık fabrikası -- huge buildings, many with container trucks parked out front. In the city fındık depo tucked among houses and low-rise apartment buildings house hundreds of burlap bags of nuts in their shells, and shops with names like Hazelnut Castle and Hazelnut World sell all manner of hazelnut products: the nuts shelled and unshelled and dipped in chocolate, hazenut butter chunky or smooth, hazelnut flour and the big macaroon-type cookies that are made from it and hazelnut ezme, a sweet, sticky slurry of coarsely crushed hazelnuts blended withsyrup.
At Giresun's twice-weekly market, which draws fresh and prepared food vendors from villages near and far, we asked a husband-wife team selling whole dried pears, pear and apple pekmez (fruit molasses) and seven types of cheese why, given that the Black Sea hazelnut harvest was not all that many weeks ago, there were no hazelnuts for sale at the market.
"Why would we sell our hazelnuts at the market for 5 lira a kilo when we can get 15 lira from the factory?" he asked (the couple harvest around 500 kilos of hazelnuts a year from their own orchard).
But there are hazelnuts aplenty in Giresun's pastane, or pastry shops. We eyed the breads, buns and sweets in many pastry shop windows before settling on Patar Kadayıfı, in the center of town. Our rationale: the glass case tiny Patar held just three or four sweets, and only two made with hazelnuts.
If there's one thing we've learned from working the street food circuit all these years, it's that specialization rules.
Turkey, meanwhile, is working very hard to promote its hazelnuts worldwide, with an advertising campaign that boldly proclaims the hazelnut the "miracle nut," imbuing the product with almost magical powers. The promotional film below, produced by Turkey's Hazelnut Promotion Group, gives a good sense of this campaign's often over-the-top efforts to turn the hazelnut into a wonder nut: