I love these tiny Black Sea fish.
Peppers are everywhere in Turkish cuisine; roasted peppers garnish just about every kebab or kofte plate you'll be served, for instance. The sign is an indication as to how spicy they are. (These, çok çok tatli, are "very, very sweet."
One of the few things at the market I'd just never seen before. They're a small, wrinkly fruit with a tough skin, and a big seed on the inside. But the flesh in the middle is dry and powdery—literally, it crumbles between your fingers, becoming the texture of pollen—with a faint taste that reminded me of dates and anise. "They're often served as bar snacks," said Bozdogan.
After we bought a few bags of bananas and mushrooms, I tried to figure out how we'd carry it all back. The solution? A basket! Men with enormous baskets strapped to their backs walk around the market, and will go around with you to carry everything you buy. They're tipped at the end for their services.
Ours worked more like a golf caddy than simply someone to carry the load—helping us pick out fruits and vegetables, expediting the shopping.
"Pestil" is essentially a fruit leather. Grapes, or mulberries or apricots or pomegranates, are pureed and sun-dried, studded with walnuts, pistachios, or almonds. (There's also a form that looks more like a sausage, with nuts in the center encased by fruit puree.)
These huge, light-exteriored pumpkins are known as "honey pumpkins" (bal = honey, kabağı = squash.) They'e pretty much only used for sweets—roasted in syrup, say.
A green durum wheat often made into a pilaf, though its taste is so intense it's generally cut with equal parts regular bulghur wheat.
More wheat piles
Just about everything you'll see at the market is domestic—even bananas, which are grown in warmer regions of the country.
Some of the sweeter grapes I've ever had.
They're everywhere, they're cheap, they're so delicious.
Many produce varieties are simply known by the region famed for producing them, such as these distinctive funghi, whose name just means "mushrooms from Kanlıca." The mold on them is intentional, encouraged for the flavor it contributes, "like Roquefort cheese," Bozdogan said.
Sea beans, samphire
Often served boiled and simply dressed with garlic, lemon, and olive oil.
The popular drink Şalgam is made from these guys—they're fermented with wheat and sugar, then juiced and spiced. A popular accompaniment to kebabs.
Another familiar popular vegetable.
These must have weighed more than five pounds each.
And the leeks were massive, too...
So big you'd have to carry a bunch over your shoulder.
So many stores just sell one thing, so why are pastry and eggs? "They're all used to make borek," Bozdogan told us.
It's olive season. Wow.
We saw chestnuts sold in 15 different barrels, with many of them priced differently. Why? When the nut is removed from its hairy burr...
... it's either removed by hand and polished (giving you the shiny ones on the left) or by machine, which leaves them dustier (right). They're priced according to size, too; bigger ones are more valuable.
Every market has one.
Many are familiar, like the gherkins in the foreground; others, less so, like these unripe melons.
Other familiar vegetables are also served differently. The root end of these spinach bunches, for instance, can be braised and served as a vegetable dish.
Horse mackerel, very popular in Istanbul. "They're so popular," Bozdogan told us, "that Mavi, the jeans company, has a T-shirt with this fish on it."
Fresh white cheeses
Unaged cheeses are served everywhere, whether for breakfast, stuffed into borek or pide, garnishing salads, or any number of other ways.
Tomato paste forms the basis of many stews, and it's an essential staple. "Every housewife has her local tomato paste vendor," Bozdogan told us.