Antalya is one of the largest producers of fruits and vegetables in Turkey. Some of the main crops are citrus (think oranges, lemons, and grapefruit), olives, plums, pears, and pomegranate. The official symbol for Antalya is an orange because it is considered the citrus capital of the nation. The streets are lined with date, palm, and orange trees; the courtyard of every apartment complex is filled with pomegranate, citrus, fig and plum trees. Antalya is bursting at the seems with delicious, fresh food! Forget to eat breakfast? Grab a grapefruit from the courtyard on your way out. The fruit from these trees are considered community property.
Although produce is sold at supermarkets, most Turks stick their noses up at the lettuce and peppers that have been sitting around for days and isn’t the cream-of-the-crop, so to say. Often the stuff in the produce section is even imported (gasp!).
“So how do I get my hands on some of these amazing oranges?” you ask. Find your local “pazar” or farmers market. These open air (although often covered) markets meet in the same places every week, and every day of the week a market is open in a different location. You’re never too far from fresh food! These government-sponsored food markets meet 65% of the fresh fruit and vegetable demand of the province. Not only can you pick your own fresh produce brought straight from the farmers, you can also bargain the price if you so desire. Although the prices are typically so affordable I don’t bother.
Because Antalyans are so used to having the most fresh and local fruits and vegetables at their fingertips, the question is often asked “Yerli mi?” (“Is this native?”) in order to make sure the food has been grown right here on Turkish soil. If it is imported, they will simply move on to the next booth to find some that is not imported. I had a friend over to my house to show me how to cook a Turkish dish. When she saw the potatoes I had bought at the market didn’t look particularly healthy and the skin was flaking off, she insisted they were imported from another country, because Turkish-grown potatoes would never look like that!
Another way you can tell the produce is fresh is that, besides the basics of onions, potatoes and tomatoes and such, fruits and vegetables are only available seasonally at the markets. Pomegranates are only found September through February, strawberries begin to show up in February and last through the summer. Of course there are always a few here and there that are available, but they are super expensive and not as sweet.
Not only is fresh food found at the pazars, but many restaurants also purchase their produce from local wholesale farmers markets. This means that when you are dining out, you can still get fresh and tasty produce; even fast food chains have fresher salads than I’ve ever seen in the USA!
If you are a self-proclaimed “foodie” or just your average Joe who likes a good meal, Antalya has something to offer with the truest “farm-to-table” experience you’ll ever have.