The trip begins!

  • Tom 

A quick note: Some elements I touch on will be updated later in more detail or saved for the final report. 

After loads of preparation, the first part of this once in a lifetime experience has finally begun!

The project got off to a fabulous and somewhat rapid start. No sooner had I got through passport control and baggage reclaim, I was meeting with Stuart J. Lucas, a hazelnut genetics expert from Sabancı University in Sabiha Gokcen Airport, Istanbul. 

With bags in toe, we headed up to the food area to talk about his latest work. Stuart has lived in Turkey for 10 years and works on hazelnut diseases. His most recent work has been conducting genetic analysis of powdery mildew a serious disease that has appeared in Turkish hazelnuts that impacts yield.

Key Elements Included:

  • Powdery mildew
  • Possible threat to Kent
  • Spraying and new varieties to breed resistance 
  • Allergies

After meeting with Stuart I catch a bus to the European side of Istanbul. I am dropped off and in excitement nearly leave my hand luggage on the coach. After a quick and frantic chase after the bus this is thankfully recovered. What a start!

Dropped near Taxsim Square (a major nightlife area with vintage trams in the day) I then walk to the Airbnb. Hauling the suitcase and hand luggage was hot work in the humidity and darkness. While walking I began to get a feel for a buzzing city. I later learnt that there are 15 million people in Istanbul so this certainly explains a lot. 
I walk past the first shop and by pure chance it has a sack of green / fresh hazelnuts, dehusked and little packets of nuts pre-weighed. Above this are roasted and blanched hazelnuts for those who do not want the shell. The green nuts and dehusked were a lot smaller than Kent cobs. They looked more like small Cosford cobnuts. Still oval but generally  a lot smaller. 

During my time in Istanbul this was my only sighting of fresh nuts being retailed. But very interesting to see considering this is a key part of the cobnut sector in the UK. Stuart had said that green eating was very rare, but he had begun to see fresh nuts in the local supermarket. He theorised that it was due to a societal shift of people moving to work in Istanbul from places such as Ordu. With people possibly bringing a local taste for fresh hazelnuts. 

This was later confirmed during my time in Ordu by a number of roadside sellers and small shops who also stocked fresh nuts. But generally these did not seem to have a massive market or be particularly popular. In fact many people in conversation said that they are just not eaten this way.  So perhaps a very small part of this huge Turkish industry. 

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