Mt. Ararat, seen from Armenia. Photo: Maks Karochkin / Creative Commons.
Towering above the Turkish-Armenian border, Mt. Ararat is thought by many to be the place where the biblical Noah's ark -- the vessel said to have taken on a pair of every animal species in order to repopulate the earth -- came to rest after the great flood. Now one of that same mountain's most cherished fruits has been symbolically added to another ark, one that seeks to protect regional foods at risk of disappearing.During a recent gathering in Armenia, the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity added the Shalakh variety of apricot as the 1,000th "passenger" on its Ark of Taste, a project that works "to protect food products, livestock breeds, and plant varieties at risk of disappearance, and the traditions and knowledge inextricably linked to these foods."
3,000 Years Of Apricot-Growing Heritage
Armenians have been growing apricot trees for more than 3,000 years and the Shalakh apricot is an important part of the country's economic, social and cultural heritage, Slow Food says:
The apricot is grown on the slopes of Mount Ararat ... in the Ararat Valley near Yerevan, in Armenia. Large, soft, sweet, and juicy, the fruit can reach up to 100 grams in weight and is used to make jam (maraba). Each house usually has a few trees in the garden for domestic consumption, some as old as 70 years, but the international market has been invaded by more productive hybrids that carry the same name, and the authentic Shalakh apricot risks disappearing.
The ever-growing Ark of Taste now contains plants and foods from 60 countries, which are promoted to consumers and often supported in other ways. The Shalakh apricot is Armenia's second entry, after motal, a traditional cheese made from the milk of a native goat breed raised in the country's mountains and seasoned with mountain herbs such as tarragon.
Neighboring Turkey's sole entry on the ark thus far is haviar, "the dried egg sacks of the grey mullet fish... salted, dried, and coated in beeswax." One of the most ancient Turkish foods, haviar is now mostly made by a cooperative of fishermen in the southwestern village of Dalyan.
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