Purslane

Merve Uçar

Prof. Cemal Kafadar

5 August 2014

Botanically purslane vegetable belongs to family of Portulacaceae and scientifically known as Portulaca oleracea. Purslane is native to India and Persia and widely distributed throught the continent. It is also supposed that it reached North America in the pre-Colombian era. Purslane is an edible leafy vegetable that is the most nutritious plant in the world. It contains most Omega 3 vitamins among other leafy vegetable plants and that’s good for the vegetarians. It’s also high in Vitamins A and C, and has a bit of calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium and potassium. Its leaves appear thick and have slightly lemony and salty taste. The tiny flowers of vegetable generally are yellow, pink or red and there are many little black seed inside. Succulent leaves and stems and its yellow flower buds are also edible. Fresh raw leaves can be used as salad with yogurt or vegetable juice. Additionally it can be cooked as spinach or a delicious soup can be made from the leaves. There is little difference between wild and domesticated purslane in terms of taste and nutrient content. Wild purslane is a creeping plant that grows along the ground where domesticated purslane, sometimes called garden purslane, grows more upright and can reach over a foot in height. Hence, domesticated varieties of purslane stay more quite clean considering wild one. Most say that domestic purslane has a milder flavor than the wild version and it has more lemony taste.

Purslane is a warm-weather crop and need full sun and neutral well-drained soil. The seeds of vegetable are sowed in 10-20 cm depth. The land is fertilized then irrigated. Harvest time (early June till end of the summer) comes right after in 50-70 days. Purslane can be kept in the refrigerator for about 3-4 days and should be eaten while the leaves are fresh. Before the consuming it must be cleaned with plenty of water in order to remove pesticides.

I was already known this vegetable. My mother frequently cooks it but in my child I do not like too much its sour taste. But two weeks ago I bought a bundle of purslane from Yedikule gardens and I cooked. Firstly I repeatedly washed all the leaves and it took many times. After I sure that it was totally purified, I chopped the onions and purslane with stems. Then I put the oil in a large saucepan and added the onions, grated tomato and a little sauce. After all cooked for a while I put the chopped purslane and mixed them all. Finally I barely put in boiled water and a little salt. 20 minutes later my meal was ready. It was too delicious and better than my mom’s.

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What the Primary Sources Tell Us?

Merve Uçar
Prof. Cemal Kafadar
15 July 2014

Primary sources like geoponika and typika registrations in Byzantine and tahrir defters, waqf records in Ottoman Empire shed light into the certain parts of the social life. Population, residence type and location, religious affiliation of people, variety of property, sources of income and models of production and consumption are some of findings which can be gained from the primary sources of the period.
For instance, the survey of Istanbul made by the order of Mehmed II in the year 1455 gave us most detailed and reliable datas about the conditions of the buildings, churches, monasteries in Istanbul right after the conquest. Furthermore, the survey also addresses the two waves of migration to the city. While first settlers came immediately after the conquest, the rest joined them after Mehmed II’s commitment that whoever come the city and select whatever abandoned house, it would belong him. But soon after, this group of people quitted the region due to the hardships of living in a ruined city. The number of the dead, wounded and captives during the conquest is among the issues are touched on the survey. Moreover, Conqueror ordered the construction of a mosque and a sultanic complex in his own name at Istanbul’s Fatih area. The complex included a mosque, a hospital, an imaret, a primary school and a library. According to waqf records of the complex the annual income reached around 32.000 gold prices and 383 employees received their salaries from the waqf fund. As it is understood from the Byzantine typika, monastic foundation documents from 12th century, wine dressers, groom, baker, gardener and gatekeeper were a part of monastery that they were taking meal along with other monks. They all act in a sense of brotherhood. We learned from the twelfth century typika even every day the gardeners, the vine-dressers and other employees were coming together at the refectory. Like Ottoman sultanic complex, monasteries were close the garden, bakery and vineyard which are all essential for human nutrition. Lip’s monastery also includes a hospital within. It was a common point between Byzantine and Ottoman society that institutional philanthropy goes over the foundations especially hospitals. Thirteenth century typika cites the existence of foundation hospital capable of bedding 20 patients at the same time and salaries of doctors and other servants and other expenditures of the hospital satisfied by revenues of certain property donated by someone. Plus, from this source we can gain some sort of information about the habits of diet of nuns. It appears that they were aware of the organic needs of human being hence they have specific dietary guideline: three dishes of fish, cheese and legumes on non-fast days and legumes, vegetables and seasonal shellfish for fast days. It means that there were regular vegetable productions around which satisfy monastery’s need.
To large extent similarly, Geoponika records, a Byzantine Greek farming manual in 10th century gave us information about the agricultural traditions of Roman Empire. We can gain sort of impression about the belief systems of the period. Because, there were some details about the astrological forecasting. Indeed, there is an assertion that gardeners finds the stars more reliable guides than calendars but Geoponika Book refuted this claim by showing the proofs that Julian calendar were using everywhere. Also, set of information about the weights and measures system could be found in the Geoponika which could means that magnitude of production or size of the arable lands were beyond our estimates. In my opinion, the magnitude of the agricultural production should be too much that people had to advance such kind of rational calendar and measure systems.
Dioskorides’s Materi medica is a pharmacology book includes lists of plants along with their medicinal uses. There are 383 botanical pictures and under them their features were written. It is mentioned that some herbs carry the magical properties. On the other hand, the supplementary text has set of animal pictures such as snakes, lizard, birds and fishes. I think, all these animals are sacred in the society and have a symbolic meaning therefore they found a place in this book. Animals are used in healing many years as well as plants. They are also part of medical treatment. In the late antique and early Byzantine period medical care was a job of women. So we can make some interpretations about women’s place in the society. Probably preserving lives is sacred job and this increases the status of women in the community.
On the other hand, tahrir registrations and typika records gave us detailed and reliable information about the size and number of the arable lands or gardens. For instance, thirteen century typika states that convent of the miracle-working saints Kosmas and Damian had a piece of arable land inside the city of 640 modioi, a garden at Blanga with the pasturage there…etc. Besides, from the estates of Achilleion and Barys which were inherited by a man he had gained cattle, a vineyard of 32 modioi, a garden of 20 modioi, a smaller garden of 10 modioi and arable land of 390 modioi. Shortly, we are able to obtain such detailed informations about the sizes and varieties of the gardens from the foundation records.
In sum, agricultural production and size and number of arable lands are always important for rulers that’s because they all tried to register them. Although the land taken by force in a way, the continuity of authority depends on the happiness and to what extend satisfy people’s natural needs at least. Hence, all rulers want to know how much is produced. The primary sources arranged by central government or pious foundations today grant the scholars a bunch of research field. Habits of diet, size and number of lands, variety of the vegetables which all is a significant part of social life could be found inside of these primary sources.

One day in Yedikule Orchards

This was our first visit to Yedikule district in the scope of the summer course entitled City and Agriculture: Studying and Preserving the Historic Gardens of Istanbul. I have been living in Istanbul since I was born and almost once a week I pass through the Yedikule gate with unawareness the spectacular historical gardens of Istanbul which are located behind the walls. I was occasionally encountering the sold fresh vegetables on the table in front of garden. This was my first time to come into the door and meet the gardeners. Despite the hot weather of Istanbul, we began the discussion our texts under the shadow of grapevine.

Uçar, 2014

Our readings were too deductive for me. The topic was new and there were a lot to discover. For instance, Kaldjian noted that Istanbul’s early masters of vegetable production were Greeks and Armenians in the seventeenth century Bulgarians by inheriting the skills, gardens and opportunities superseded Greeks then Albanian migrants came to Istanbul learned trade and dominate the field that is understood from the 1883 map of Istanbul which the many garden names derive from Greek or Albanian. In the 1990s Albanians and Bulgarians sold and left their bostans thus Cidelis who came after WWII and worked on the land inherited these gardens and became the chief gardeners in the region.
On the other hand before the course I supposed that Istanbul was one of the big city and also capital of the Ottoman Empire had been always consumed and imported the vegetables and fruits from the near provinces. However, the data asserts contrary. Historical map of Istanbul from 1883 indicates there are 102 recorded bostans within the old city and they were enough productive to satisfy the city’s fruit and vegetable needs such as spinach, lettuce, black cabbage.

Uçar, 2014

Furthermore, there is a critical question needs to be posed that where we get such detailed information about orchards. The kefil defters gave us data about the sizes, nationality of owners and employers of the garden. In early eighteenth century Istanbul had come cross with the migration flow and state let these people trading under the condition of a guarantor which confirmed the man’s honesty. These records have been kept in the name of guarantee notebooks and left set of information to us.
Interestingly, even Yedikule covers small part of the region the techniques for irrigations change field to field. For instance, Yedikule-Silivrikapı agricultural lands are deprived of canal irrigation therefore lands were watered by underground waters collected the wells and probably in the high regions the deepness of the wells were increasing.

Uçar, 2014
Finally, when we looked at the photographs taken by Artamonoff in 1937 and 1938 and by Sebah in 1890s Yedikule is less forested and densely built now. The gardeners worried about the losing their land which has been cultivating by their elders. This uncertainty also affects the production. If gardeners know that they will stay there for a long years, they would build greenhouse and seed in a large amount.

Uçar, 2014

In conclusion, today there is a clash between gardeners and municipality about the future of Yedikule orchards. Already decreased number of historical gardens of Yedikule is wanted to become parking area for vehicles. Marmaray subway line is too close the area and it is obvious that parking area is required but why municipality so insist on the transformation of the gardens. Approximately 500 meters away Yedikule gate there has been an animal shelter and it is also so close the Marmaray and I believe that alternative to the historical orchards this shelter which smells badly could be transformed multi-level parking garage and thus both gardens and gardeners could be preserved. The duty of state bodies should be preservation the cultural heritage sites not to destroy them.