Purslane in big pots with a lot of socio-cultural questions

yogurtlu-semizotu-yemegi-tarifi

In our visits to Yedikule Gardens we had encountered some basic types of vegetables. In July, for example, we might find purslane (in Turkish Semizotu) in the gardens we had visited. Purslane or vegetable porcelane (Portulaca oleracea) is a species of plants with creeping stems, often considered a weed, although it is cultivated for food and used in herbal medicine. It is annual and very common in gardens. It grows best in warm areas particularly in the south. Purslane grows throughout Turkey-İstanbul and in all warm and temperate regions of the Earth. It is found both in Europe and Asia, America or Australia. Nevertheless its specialties might differ from region to region.

Greeks call andrakla (αντράκλα) or glystrida (γλυστρίδα) as they fry it in olive oil leaves and stems with feta, tomatoes, garlic and marjoram. (I had tried it in Thesseloniki last summer, in July) Young stems and leaves of purslane are eaten in salads, and sour taste gives a little twist. In Turkey it is used in salads but also tends to replace the spinach because it is easier to prepare. For vegetable growing, there is a form with large leaves one gold leaf varieties and varieties with pink or white flowers grown for ornament. (We cannot find this type in Yedikule Gardens) It may also be cooked in a soup or omelet. Purslane is laxative, diuretic and beneficial in case of irritation of mucous membranes. Therefore it is a vegetable used in many dishes based on the other product that might be found in that region. Nevertheless I believe cooking purslane like spinach might demolish its vitamins and reduce the portion of the meal. Using it as a product for salad might be more meaningful if we would like to feed a big family. For big families, cooking meals in big pots with lots of ingredients might be a good way of feeding the family easier and escaping the time wasted on cooking. Ottoman families were also known by its large population including some members from outside the family. I wonder how did cooking the purslane and reducing its portion have become a way of using it. In pragmatically and anthropological aspects I could only give one answer to this problematic. As I mentioned before, maybe the type of purslane differs from region to region and Ottomans had found it more useful to cook. It might be about the proportion of the water inside the plant which had grown in İstanbul. Nevertheless cooking purslane might be a coincidence of cooking culture synthesis. In other words Ottoman families who are used to feeding their family by cooking in big pots might have put the purslane that they had planted in their gardens. In this way they had skipped its usage in salads which might show us how cultural and social facts had influenced the pragmatically and useful solutions in a bad way.

By explaining this dilemma I would like to focus on the bad inducement of social, economic and cultural issues in contrast with ecological aspects. In the case of the usage of purslane, I believe the pot cooking culture of Ottoman-Turkish had skipped the importance of the vitamins inside the purslane and diminished the possible portions of purslane for families. In this paper by considering last session on activism I would like to pay attention to the influence of socio-cultural issues on ecological perception of individuals.

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Imagining a Destroyed and Lost Garden Through Written Works

Last week we visited Langa and Yedikule Gardens in order to see a long transformation in a region in terms of the usage of the land and field. I would like start by stating a philosophical and imaginary difficulty in order to draw the framework of this paper. Our visit was to a field which had been transformed for many times into different areas for agricultural or monetary production and habitation. Even if we are able to find some archeological remains of different periods the field and its aura had been transformed many times. In this framework an imagination of the past decades seems impossible for scholars and researchers. As a research methodology looking into the written works might help us for to illustrate the past decades. These sources are more helpful with a combination of different sources in different periods. Similarities and differences misght show the researchers the continuity in the era in terms of cause and consequences.

Studying primary resources that had been translated and edited recently by scholars might demonstrate us the transformation of the fields and the usage of the soil. One of our resources that we had discussed in Yedikule Gardens; Geoponika is on the farmwork of the Roman and Byzantine. It starts by setting the methodology that had been used in the modern translation. In Geoponika previous books are attributed to the climat conditions sun, moon, wind, schedule, finding water, soil, forests, calenders, seasons and planting. For instance book four is dedicated to grapes and gardening of grapes and includes ideas and observations of different authors of that period such as Demokritos, Tarantinos. Wine and the production of wine is also included in this and following chapters. As we might see cultivation of grapes had occupated an important place for Roman and Byzantine Empire. Book nine is dedicated to olive trees and production of olive oil. Other books include cultivation of fruits such as citrons, pears, peach, cheries, plums etc. Book twelve which seems important for our research on Istanbul focuses on the vegetables and cultivation theories and observations for gardeners. Garlic, onions, lettuce, mushrooms, mint, cabbage, basil are the main products that are discussed as the used products for prophets and the citizens of Istanbul in that era. Florentinus states that “gardening is essential to life” (Geoponika, 247) . In this respect he focused on the value of differetn vegetables in terms of medicinal use in various illnesses.

Our second document “A Complete Translation of the Surviving Founders” Typika and Testaments” focuses firstly on a prior history of the foundation. Accordingly Mamas had been an important monastry and occupied an important patriarchal responsability before 1000s. We might find some information on the diet of the monks and the importance of finding water at that era. The previous chapters are dedicated to the usage of the gardens and the relation of the monks with the gardens inluding the financial matters. Accordingly some fields had been used as cementry. Again we might find some information on olive oil and wine including their daily usage and routine of fasting. Vineyards and their cultivation occupies an important position from 19th chapter onwards. It is interesting to see how religious affairs were organized through the cultivation of the soil and the products for decades. The translated chapters provides us the diet of the monks and the citizens of Istanbul based on the institutions and religious places. For instance we might see this organizations in these lines “Since man is an organic being and is clad in a body which has need of food and requires covering, and there is a divine law that one should not desire to die nor dissolve the bond of union prematurely, my majesty has deemed it necessary to discuss the needs of the nuns, I mean food and clothing and all other garments.” (Typikon 1275)

As for me these documents provide us an important source for understanding the organization made based on the production and how it had effected the social life and daily routines during that period. Besides we might find important information about the products that had been cultivated since that period and their usage. Using primary sources might frame us the missing information and the aura that the scholars are working on. In this sence going through these documents seems important.

Historical Gardens Inbetween Green and Grey

Visiting Yedikule Gardens have been an important experience for me as a person who was born and lived in Istanbul for 25 years. I have always been aware of the fact that Istanbul does not have an only city center and had been fragmented based on social and economic needs of certain decades. Nevertheless I had never taken my imagination to a point where agriculture might integrate itself to urban life. Apparently it did for decades and now this meaningful mixture is pushed to periphery of the city. My first impression with the gardens had been the absence of field cleaning. The bostans that are not cultivated anymore had been left to their own destiny which will be shaped by fast urbanization and by the needs of the growing population. Nevertheless the existence of the walls had made me feel the historical background and the ethos of the area. Therefore I strongly believe that it is important to start conducting our research by going through the historical photos. (You might find the photos I captured during our first visit to Yedikule Gardens below)

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Bostans 2014

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View from the Historic Walls 2014

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Bostans with Water Ways

Green and Grey

Green and Grey

 

This week I will be examining three photos captured by Sebah (1890), Artamanoff (1938) and myself (2014) in Yedikule Gardens. I would like to start by stating the identical points in these photos where evolution of a city couldn’t transform since the 19th century. By going through the identical points I will also be pointing out the main transformations which I believe will be important for understanding the socio-spatial position of bostans in the last decade. Paul J. Kaldjian had stated that the bostans which had provided city’s food and commercial network among the markets had been a part of Istanbul’s identity. For decades the gardeners of bostans were viewed as experts and held in high esteem in the society. Nevertheless with confiscatory urbanization, spatial-growth and modernization urban agriculture had scattered throughout the city, to the margins of the city. Locating bostans and the gardeners to the periphery had transformed frankly socio-spatial outlook of the area whereas some issues had survived until these days. The first common point that had occured to me is the mosque in these three pictures.

Sebah, 1890s.

Sebah, 1890s.

Artamonoff, February 1937

Artamonoff, February 1937

Nicholas V. Artamonoff Collection, RV53, Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Trustees for Harvard University, Washington, D.C.

2014

2014

2014

2014

Since Yedikule Gardens had been an important market place and retail center for the city there had been habitations around the bostans as we might see in the photos provided by Sebah (1890) and Artamanoff (1938). In my estimation the mosque that had survived through the transformation of Istanbul might be a good example of habitation of certain social groups (such as gardeners) around the bostans. We might say that gardeners of bostans had located themselves around their bostans and structured their daily life according to their profession. Their habitation and profession had located in the same area where the mosque might demonstrate us their continuity and long existence in the area. Instead of working as seasonal gardeners they had organized a social position which used to be a high esteemed position among the society before the relentless urbanization. Nevertheless the demolition of bostans and their function in the urban city could not change the existence of the mosque as people around the bostans had continued to live in the same place. It seems to me that urban gardeners had structured an important social group which had lost its reputation by modernization.

Second important issue that had occurred to me is the emptiness of the field in these three pictures. Even if the cultivation of the soil had disappeared in time the fields had remained empty (which is rare in a fast growing city such as Istanbul). This situation might be explained by the existence of the antique walls. Nevertheless according to “cognizance of urban security” empty fields are a big danger for crime. A field that had been pushed to peripheral area and left alone without cultivation also seems as an area of crime and danger. In our visits to Yedikule Gardens, I would like to talk to residents about their perception of the field and marginalized territories in the city.