Friday, 26 September 2014

Nature's Medicine Cabinet.

I've been talked into giving a lecture on the natural remedies found in this part of Turkey and this has had me going through all my old posts looking for inspiration.  I was surprised to find a few that I'd written, but never posted. It's always a nice surprise to find a ready-made blog post that only needs a bit of updating.

St John's Wort - Kantaron

If you walk around any rural market in this area, you will see plastic water bottles filled with a red or burgundy coloured oil.  If you ask what it is you'll be told "Kantaron" or Kantron" and this will be accompanied by a mime of rubbing an arm or face. The bottle will set you back between 7 and 10 TL and I suggest you purchase a supply for your medicine cupboard. What you are actually buying is a tincture of St John's Wort, which for centuries has been a renown cure-all. In ancient times it was hung over front doors to ward off evil and disease.  In Germany it is medically accepted as an effective treatment for depression and in Turkey it is used to cure boils, burns, cuts, cold sores, piles, insect bites. muscle pain and ear-ache. My fellow blogger Ayak, was sold some by a pharmacist to treat a dog bite and she was impressed at its curative properties.  It is clinically proven to be anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory. It is also undergoing trials to see if it is effective in treating age-related memory loss, and tests on mice are positive so far. (Do mice have problems remembering where they left their keys?) It is also traditionally used in some countries, (but not here) to reduce cravings for alcohol.

It has its drawback backs though.  It interacts with many commonly taken drugs, so should never be used if you are taking prescribed medicine without first checking with your doctors, especially if you are taking anti-depressants.  It also makes skin sensitive to sunlight, so if using it you have to keep well in the shade.  It is poisonous to cattle, but the effects of the poison are reduced if the animals are kept out of the sun.

It is a common weed, so now you've seen the picture, you will notice it everywhere,  especially in Spring.  To make the tincture, either the buds of the plant or the seed pods are collected and put in jars for 24 hours, then olive oil is poured on top and the jars left in the sun for 6 to 8 weeks. The resulting red liquid is then strained into bottles.  The whole plant is often pulled up and dried and used as tea, and in other countries, 40 grams of flowers are infused in 1 litre of wine, left for a month, strained and sweetened and 2 tablespoons are taken daily as a pick-me-up!

The more I research local remedies, the more I find that are backed up by scientific studies.  It's a fascinating subject.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Writers' circle.

Writers in a circle

Fish seemed a good idea until I started to fillet 12 sea bass.
Bob and Fatoş dig in, but my Mother is overwhelmed by the many dishes. 

Last October I wrote about about starting a new Writing group in Bodrum and I'm happy to report that we met very two weeks from then on, either in the Maya Hotel or Gambilya Restaurant, to exercise our writing muscles until June arrived and summer activities, travels abroad or visiting friends and relations made us all too busy to continue.  But Sunday marked the Autumn Equinox which brings summer to an end and makes us all think about the coming winter months.   For those in Northern climes, this may be a bit depressing but for us in Southern Turkey its great. July and August have been too hot to do much except recline in the shade, so Autumn heralds a return to activity; both physical and mental.  We celebrated the end of summer with a few glasses of wine and ginger fizz and a pot luck lunch under the pine trees on our terrace.  Just to give credence to our name, Martha got us all sitting in a circle and had us note down our thoughts on "peace"; September 21st being the UN's International Day of Peace.  As our minds ticked over and pens scratched, the only sound was the breeze among the trees.  Peace epitomised!
At the other end of the country peace is long gone. On UN Day of Peace, I could only think of the desperate Syrians, fleeing for their lives across the Turkish border to escape IS.  A peaceful solution will be a long time coming and Turkey will struggle with a refugee crisis that has seen 140,000 cross the border this week alone. Peace doesn't stand a chance.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Senior Dogs and Bodrum Dog *

Senior Dogs Abroad is one of my favourite blogs. Mark and Jolee's perceptions of Turkey chime with my own and I admire their grasp of the political situation in the country. If you need a deeper insight into the machinations of modern Turkish life, I recommend you click on the link to their blog.  If you are planning to visit Istanbul, then I insist that you reserve an afternoon to delve deeper into their posts, it will be the making of your trip. Luckily for me, they left Istanbul and Burgazada behind this week to make a whistle-stop tour of the South West and Jake and I got to meet them.  If you look very carefully, you can see Bodrum Castle in the background of this photo.   We are hoping to tempt them back for a longer visit and give them a young dog's guide to walking the Bodrum peninsula.

* The Bodrum Dog refers to Jake, anyone who suggests otherwise shall be excommunicated

Monday, 15 September 2014

Nations torn apart by politics, reunited by music.

As my Turkish blog is becoming increasingly Greek in the summer months, it's satisfying to have both national flags side by side on this post.  I have also mentioned that my favourite archaeological site is Stratonikeia and that I have fond memories of the ancient theatre so I was very happy to catch a H3A-organised bus to Stratonikeia yesterday evening.  These flimsy fabric emblems, that incited horrific bloodshed and enmity, were flying together  in the theatre last night to celebrate a Friendship Concert featuring the AK-DER Turkish music group and a Rembetiko group from Kos. The concert was introduced by Prof. Dr. Bilal Söğüt, the director of the archaeological excavations, which ticked another box on my blogging list  (if only there had been a rescue dog dancing the sitarki while cooking a kebab, I would have had a full house).

As usual with most events of this kind, it started late which had the audience whistling and hand clapping, trying to get the performers to stop glad handing and get on stage, and then the seemingly unending speeches had to be got through with everyone thanking everyone else.  The Mayor of Nisyros may have regrets today at inviting the whole audience to his Greek island and promising to greet everyone personally on arrival, but his sentiments were received very warmly.
Eventually the musicians were allowed to take centre stage and played over two hours of well known songs which had the whole audience joining in.  Three brand new pieces which to my untrained ear sounded exactly like the old favourites, seemed to be well received. I've included a clip of  "Izmir Kavakları" (Izmir Poplar Trees) which started off in Greek and ended in Turkish; appropriate if one considers the history of this great city.

The streets were full of stalls selling honey, olives, local remedies, crafts and refreshments.  It was great to see the once-deserted  town so full and bustling.  

The ladies of the chorus in their striking turquoise outfits. 

A photo grabbed before dusk fell. The theatre eventually filled up to numbers that would have been respectable in the years after its construction in the reign of Augustus  (63BC-14AD)

Thursday, 11 September 2014

My First Lime in Bodrum

This post is for Kath and Dave, our globe trotting, camper-van driving friends.  When they departed last year, to return to real life in Surrey, they left us the money to buy a lime tree. This I duly did and yesterday I picked my first home grown lime.  These tasty green fruit are hard to come by in Bodrum, and impossible to find in the village so the possibility of being self sufficient in the next few years is a wondrous concept.  We celebrated our harvest with the best gin and tonic of the year.  The next lime I  pick shall be kept in the deep freezer and grated sparingly into Thai curries or desserts. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the coriander seeds and lemon grass plonked in the garden earlier this week.

Kath and Dave may no longer be driving around Europe, the van has been exchanged for a MG, but Kath hasn't given up blogging. Cakes by Kath is her new blog, showcasing the magnificent birthday cakes she makes for friends and family. 

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Her Derde Deva - Küdret Narı. Bitter Gourd

Excuse me breaking into Turkish, but "her derde deva" sounds so much better than "universal cure".  The village markets are full of jars and bottles which claim to be a panacea for every ill known to mankind and I used to be pretty sceptical, but the more research I do, the more faith I put in these local remedies.  My poor daughter has been diagnosed with a thyroid problem which, indirectly, has caused her insulin levels to rise so she has been prescribed Metformin.  This drug has horrible side effects and her suffering prompted me to comb the internet for alternatives and I found one that is on sale at almost every market in Bodrum. Bitter gourd or Küdret Narı has been proven to be almost as effective as Metformin at reversing insulin resistance and lowering blood sugars. Interestingly,  when I bought some of the fruit this week, I was told it was good for heartburn, acid reflux, stomach ulcers and skin complaints.  It is either sold macerated in olive oil or honey, so I was lucky to find the whole fruit.  In the East, it is treated as a vegetable and picked green, when it is less bitter, and cooked in stews and stir fries, juiced or eaten raw. 

Care should be taken in preparation as the red pulp covering the seeds is poisonous, but the rest of the fruit is edible and the leaves can be used for tea.  It grows prodigiously and the vine can reach 5 meters in height.  I've saved some seeds and will plant them next May and see if I can get my own vine growing.  If you are diabetic or on insulin lowering medication only try this vegetable in consultation with your doctor, as you might find your sugar levels dipping too low. 

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Nuts No More

I am of an age that if I hear the word "Nuts" it is always followed mentally by "whole hazelnuts, Cadburys take them and they cover them in chocolate". It's unfortunate that most of the readers stumbling on this blog live in the US, because this won't mean anything to you.
Nuts Whole Hazelnuts
Hazelnuts are one of Turkey's biggest exports and the makers of Nutella rely on Turkish nuts for their famous chocolate spread. The bad news for lovers of this sugar and palm oil heavy concoction is that the hazelnut harvest has been affected by bad weather and production is down by over 50%.  We've never been a Nutella family as at 104 calories for a 20g serving it always struck me as being extremely unhealthy, but I have recently met folk who can't live without it. However, I have just been converted to another chocolate spread that seems a bit too good to be true.

Chokoliva is 55% olives, 20% chocolate and 10% cherries. Hazelnuts, citric acid and soy lecithin make up the remaining 15%.  At 33 calories for a 20g serving, it could almost be classed as a guilt free treat.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Running Water

Sesame drying. 

When we bought our land near the village, there was no water apart from a few wells. We planned to collect rainwater in the winter to use in the summer and built a large cistern. In 1992, by the time our house was finished enough to move into, domestic water pipes had been laid and we never got the chance to find out if we could have been self-sufficient.  The Karaova plain in front of us is very fertile but without water only tobacco and sesame could be grown in the summer, which meant that, by the end of August, there was very little green to be seen.  The scenery is very different today. A comprehensive irrigation project, completed in the mid 90s,  distributes water through a series of canals  to the whole agricultural area.

Now each family with land on the plain, has a market garden which provides all their summer vegetables and flowers for the house.  Everyone knows that we don't grow our own as we are further up the hill and are not lucky enough to have rich soil, so we are always offered veg as we pass by. As we walk past twice a day with the dog, this can be a bit embarrassing for me, as I have managed to retain my  annoying English mentality which makes me  feel that I am taking advantage if I accept their generosity too often. Despite long years in the UK, Teo luckily has not adopted such a useless mindset and helps himself whenever.

The abundance of courgettes, aubergines, tomatoes and peppers also attracts unwelcome visitors.  Wild boar get hungry up in the forest and in one trip down the hill they can wreck a whole field, so gardens can't be left unattended at night. These makeshift shacks house one man and a gun, asleep but with ears primed, ready to blast at the first grunt or snuffle.

A very good reason to make sure Jake is only let out in daylight.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Jazz Cafe. Past and Present.

I've been very lazy since returning last week. It's been too hot to do much other than read or swim but we did venture out once and this journey took me on a trip down Memory Lane. 
We set out to meet Simon, who had been in Turkey for the 2 weeks that I was in Scotland and Dorset, and was just about to leave.  Simon was my first "proper" boyfriend  - "proper" in that we were teenage lovebirds and even endeavoured to set up house together in a miserable two room flat in Selly Oak, Birmingham some 37 years ago.   (Brutal reality soon punctured that young love's dream). Neither of us is entirely clear when we last saw each other but it was a long, long time ago. Simon was with friends in Gümüşlük, so I suggested we have a drink in the Jazz Cafe.  We had a lovely afternoon gassing and promised to meet up again in the not too distant future as we only touched on the reminiscences of life in Rugby and Birmingham in the 1970s. 
The venue was an apt choice for reliving old memories.  In 1982, The Jazz Cafe was located in Tepecik in Bodrum, a 5 minute stroll from the Marina  (a 10 minute drunken meander back). It was where all the yachties hung out and where a lot of the foreigners living and working in Bodrum got together. Opened by Cengiz and Mete, it was a bar where the beer was always cold, the music always good and the company entertaining.  You could meet people who had just rowed in from the harbour and occasionally a few who had just rode in from Anatolia on two wheels or four legs.  Every other punter seemed to be a poet, writer, artist or musician  and, as it was just down the road from Ahmet Ertegün's house, occasionally those signed to Atlantic records would pop in.
It was the venue for my first organised (as opposed to just happening to be in the same place at the same time) date with my husband to be.  It was my last night in Bodrum after a season as a boatbum, farewell dinner and drinks were planned and I invited Teo to join me at 8pm.   He did eventually turn up. At 10pm with two women in tow, which was an interesting start to 32 years together. 
Towards the end of the 1980s, The Jazz Cafe moved to bigger premises on the other side of Bodrum, less handy for the marina, but good for a late night bop for those of us not enamoured with the commercial Halikarnas Disco. Eventually Cengiz and Mete moved the business to Istanbul, where it is still open in the winter months, but for those of us who remember the old Bodrum Jazz Cafe, we can still grasp a taste of days past on Gümüşlük beach in the summer.  Pity the beer isn't still 4 for a quid. 

Flapper Swing in action.  As we weren't staying for the evening concert, we were entertained with an impromptu performance. 

Nice to see the boss, Cengiz in the background. 

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Save me from Gobby Women.

Is "gobby" a word?  I don't think it was when I studied English grammar and language at school but it is apt for a breed of woman I encounter more and more on my air travels.  They are anything from 20 to 45 years in age and usually have a few kids in tow though motherhood is not a criteria for the breed,  travelling in packs is.  They seem to think that anyone within 200 metres of them is lucky to be the recipient of their bon mots on life, love and sex and raise their voices accordingly so that even those with heads plugged into noise cancelling headphones  (me) will not miss a golden word uttered from their lips. They are also lucky enough to find everything they say screechingly hillarious and they fire out blasts of laughter worthy of a coven every few seconds.  Their children, also in packs, usually sit several rows away from their mothers but are then encouraged to run back and forth, grabbing each seatback and arm rest as they go.  When Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister issued forth on women not laughing in public, he was universally ridiculed,  but I am coming around to his way of thinking....

Remember the song "Silence is Golden" .... Time for a re-release I think. 

(Written on a Monarch Luton to Bodrum Charter flight,  the 31st plane trip of the year which proved to be one too many for middle-aged bordering on getting-on-a-bit me.)