Azerbaijan - Holiday Highlights and Reflection
Posted on 28th June 2018 at 16:06
Sumac, almonds and sun-dried apricots from Baku's 'green market'
I’ve just got back from a holiday in Azerbaijan where one of the highlights was a trip to the ‘green market’ in the capital Baku on the morning that I arrived. I can’t believe I didn’t take any photos! I must have been tired and too focused on the wonderful range of local produce and the surrounding shops (booths really) selling an array of nuts, dried fruits and spices.
Getting to the market was an adventure in itself. The local people are friendly, helpful and extremely good-natured, until they get behind the wheel of a car that is. There is something about being in charge of a vehicle that makes them collectively morph into Dick Dastardly from Wacky Races and it’s common to see cars and trucks reversing down the motorway or a one-way street, and crossing any road means taking your life in your hands.
Inside the ‘green market’ however was an oasis of calm and we stocked up on fruit and vegetables and local goats cheese (displayed inside a goat’s skin) to eat during my week’s visit. Aside from this clever use of sustainable, traditional, natural packaging there was very little evidence of recycling or environmental awareness, which is a great shame but the Eco Baku movement is apparently on the rise. Local cuisine is under threat though from the multinational corporations that already supply most of the food chains in ‘developed’ countries with a huge amount of products based on a handful of highly processed ingredients. Consumption of the ubiquitous pizza and chips is sadly on the rise in Azerbaijan as it is in so many other countries and this means more packaging waste to dispose of, less reliance on traditional farming, and reduced consumption of local, fresh, nutritious, seasonal produce.
Back in the UK I find myself going through my inbox and coming across articles on ‘how much turmeric do we need to take as a supplement?, ‘magnesium deficiencies – the signs revealed’ and ‘elderly people should take probiotics to preserve their bones’, and I wonder how in the short space of a few decades we got here? How is it that we now believe that health comes in a bottle or a packet with all the associated processing, transportation and polluting packaging that such consumerism involves? Whilst junk food becomes the norm in Azerbaijan, it feels like, as a more economically developed nation, we have gone full circle. Now aware of the dangers of a nutrient deficient diet we are over compensating with a quick fix of cacao shots, turmeric latte and vitamin and mineral supplements.
Luckily for me I came home to my own ‘green market’ garden, not completely decimated by the drought that we have been experiencing in East Anglia since the beginning of May. I have fresh strawberries, blueberries and raspberries; lettuce, pak choi, asparagus, broad beans, new potatoes, herbs, kale, chard, radish – real food, vibrant and alive with vitamins and minerals. No packaging or transportation required.
In Azerbaijan their markets display herbs and spices in abundance and long may that continue although in reality the future in that respect doesn’t look so bright. I came home with a suitcase stuffed full of sun dried apricots, nuts, saffron and sumac and a strengthened resolve to continue spreading awareness of the universal benefits of ‘letting food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food’. I already had sumac in my spice rack (although it isn’t half as good as the supply that I bought in the Baku market). It is high in vitamin C, packed full of antioxidants and has a proven beneficial effect on blood sugar levels. Its delicious lemony taste combines well with rice and quinoa dishes and with fish and chicken. It makes a superb coating for cauliflower steaks and a lovely addition to houmous and dips. It’s unprocessed, real food that feeds our gut microbiome, helps boost immunity and doesn’t cost the earth.
Tagged as: Antioxidants (AOs)
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