Salads were served first and eaten with main dishes during Ottoman feasts. Today, this tradition is kept alive at Turkish tables.

The Ottomans’ interest in horticulture is mentioned in the records of many foreign travelers. Ottoman gardens were shaped by nature without any paths or flower beds. Turks have a love of flowers that astonishes foreign visitors. However, these gardens are home to more than just flowers. French traveler Antoine Galland writes that the outer gardens of Topkapı Palace had vegetables patches and fruit trees instead of flower beds and that Turks consumed lots of cucumbers and raw green vegetables. In the 17th century, Jean-Baptiste Tavernier was surprised to see that Turkish children were given raw and unpeeled cucumbers as a snack. Mehmed the Conqueror also loved cucumbers, and they would grow out-of-season cucumbers in the royal gardens for him. Ottomans ate cucumbers raw or in cacık, as pickles, or stuffed. Surprised by the fact that Ottomans ate many raw herbs and vegetables, Western travelers thought this was an unhealthy habit. However, since Ottoman cuisine used plenty of vinegar, this habit of eating raw herbs and vegetables did not cause any health problems. It’s known that in the mid-16th century janissaries ate a salad of beet, onion, garlic, radish, and cucumber flavored with salt and vinegar. In his travelogue, Evliya Çelebi talks about how Ottomans used oil, vinegar, and garlic in salads. Of course, people in the past who cared a lot about gardens also loved spring. We picked two spring recipes from the Ottoman cuisine.

Yogurt with Artichokes 
Serves four
2 artichokes / 500 g strained yogurt / ¼ bunch of dill / 2 garlic cloves / 3 tbsp. olive oil / 5 g salt
Finely chop the artichokes. Smash the garlic cloves and add them to the yogurt along with the salt. Mix the finely chopped dill and artichokes into the yogurt. Spoon some artichoke yogurt on a serving plate and serve with a drizzle of olive oil.

Circassian Salad
Serves four
500 g string beans / 100 g roasted nuts / 2 garlic cloves / 1 lemon / 45 g olive oil / 40 g breadcrumbs / 5 g thyme / 5 g salt
Boil the string beans in salted water until they soften. Immerse the boiled string beans in cold water and drain. Ground the nuts and garlic in a mortar. Add the lemon juice, breadcrumbs, olive oil, salt and thyme to the ground ingredients. Roughly chop the beans. Mix them with the nuts and garlic sauce and place on a serving plate. Sprinkle with a dash of olive oil and serve. 

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