Lebanon, which has a variety of agricultural lands, from the interior plateau of the Bequaa valley to the narrow valleys leading downward to the sea, enables farmers to grow all kinds of crop. Tobacco and figs are grown in the south, citrus fruits and bananas along the coast, olives in the north and around the Shouf Mountains, and fruits and vegetables in the Beqaa Valley. More exotic crops include avocados, grown near Byblos. The very rare combination of clay/silty soil, calcareous water, and an average of 300 days of Mediterranean sunshine provides an environment in Lebanon for outstanding full flavoured fruits and vegetables. The fact that Lebanon has an area of 10452 km2 makes it possible for us to eat fresh produce all year long.
Food is an intimate gift between the cook and those he feed. It creates memories with the people you love. It brings family and friends together to celebrate the sharing of time, our most valuable commodity. It is rather a means to share the joy of human company, conversation and life over a simple shared meal. A meal that mirrors who we are, our soil, our sun, our habitat in general. We live in a land of plenty and the very ingredients of our own bodies are made up from the food we consume, which comes from the earth, our earth. There is a direct connection between the produce that our land has to offer and our bodies. We are made of it. It has a spiritual undertone to it, we ingest the offering the earth has to give and create an eternal bond with it.
Our cuisine is great because it’s simple and it revolves around what the seasons and the earth have to offer. The reason a dish is greater than the sum of its parts to me is that it is rooted in the place where it is being grown and it tastes of its land, of the people who grew it. I guess that’s why each area in Lebanon is famous with one dish that is an impression of both its people and the land. We take such pride in our produce because not only is it a labour of love but because it’s like our child, it reflects who we are as human beings.
Because one should always “cultivate his own garden”, here is a small list of what our land has to offer:
Walnuts,pine nuts, almonds, beans, barley, wheat, figs, apples, watermelon, honey melon, pears, peaches, apricots, grapes, strawberries, oranges, clementines, Abou sirra, bananas, plums, blueberries, toot, pumpkins, cucumbers, mi2te, tomatoes of all sorts, lettuce, cabbage, Rosemary, mint, parsley, basil, beetroot, pomegranate, garlic, onions, eggplant, corn, zucchini, pepper, potatoes, spinach, chard, carrots, broccoli, kiwi, dates, artichoke, asparagus, kale, arugula, lemon, coriander, thyme, chickpeas, olives, janerik, cabbage, radish, avocado, kharma, grapefruit, sweet potato, lavender, green tea, chilli, sunflower, cauliflower, cherries…
I can’t recall the number of times I have visited friends or family who grow their own fruits and vegetables and was asked ” bisharafik fi atyab min tifihate?” (by all means be honest is there anything better then my apples?) to which, needless to say, I have to reply “la2 walla ma fi” (God knows there isn’t).