Siyez Wheat Bulgur Turkey
Many farms in the forested northern Turkish province of Kastamonu, not far from the Black Sea, continue to cultivate the oldest type of wheat still in existence, Triticum monococcum, known as Siyez in Turkey. The grain differs from conventional varieties due to its low level of gluten and high protein content (about 20%). Despite its extraordinary characteristics, the cultivation of Triticum monococcum, also known as Einkorn wheat, has been declining constantly. This is due to the crop not being seen as profitable: the ear produces only one enclosed grain, it has a long vegetative cycle and there is often a poor harvest. However, it flourishes in poor soil where modern hybrids would struggle, able to survive harsh climates with at least three months of snow cover. This is why in Kastamonu over 900 farmers continue to grow it, using it mostly to make a staple food called bulgur.
The production process for bulgur is relatively simple. The husked grains are covered with boiling water for about 20 minutes, then immediately cooled with cold water and spread out in the sun to dry. The wheat is then brought to a mill where it is ground repeatedly until the grains are cleaned and crushed. “They must be split in two like the wings of a mosquito,” says Salim Kabaca, a Siyez Bulgur Presidium producer who lives and works in Ihsangazi, a village around 40 kilometers from the town of Kastamonu.
After cleaning and crushing, the wheat is spread out on large cloths and left in the sun to dry for one or two days, depending on the weather, and turned frequently.
Bulgur is used in everyday cooking, and is usually served as a pilaf, cooked in broth in a covered pan along with some minced onion sautéed in butter or oil.
Very few producers have the authorization necessary to sell their wheat, so this extraordinary grain is usually sold on the black market, and ends up mixed with regular wheat to make generic bulgur. The Presidium’s aim is to make the direct sale of the product possible and to bring the production chain up to legal standard.
The Presidium will initially work with a small group, and then seek to involve the area’s many other producers. Once direct sales of the product are possible, Slow Food will help the producers to promote their bulgur and raise its profile in Turkey and the rest of Europe.
Salim Kabaca, tel. +90 544 6674133
Ayhan Kose, +90 542 2128929
Slow Food Presidium Coordinator
Tel. +90 3361003
Cell. +90 5349693522