Can’t See The Nuts For The Pines

. . so goes the old saying, or words to that effect!

J and I have always had a thing about trees and forests – we just love to wander through them admiring the natives of every ethnicity, eccentricity and tribal affinity. We’ve wandered the Bluebell Woods of England, the Cloud Forests of Venezuela and the beautiful mixed forests of Turkey’s Black Sea region. We love them all ! So it was that we found ourselves taking a back road over the Kozak Plateau on our way to visit the fabulous archaeological sites in and around the town of Bergama.

The Maya Tepesi (hill) rises from sea-level to around 1340mts and the plateau, in reality a great basin, lies at an average of around 500mts. The terrain is undulating granite and is covered by a vast forest of Pinus pinea or Umbrella/Stone/Fıstık (nut) Pines amounting to some 16000 hectares out of a total of 43000 hectares for the whole of Turkey. Kozak, which means cone in Turkish, is the largest single Stone Pine forest in the country. Within the area of the plateau there are eight village communities that derive their income primarily from the autumn harvesting of pine nuts.

Kozak Stone Pine Forest

Kozak women harvest pine nuts (http://heatheronhertravels.com)

Pine nuts were being gathered as a rich source of food long before Homo capitaliticus wandered onto the scene and started to screw things up. The harvesting is by hand and is very labour intensive, which accounts for the high price in the shops.

Northern Paiute (native Americans) women harvesting pine nuts circa1900

All this is well and good, but it is unlikely that you are ever going to ‘harvest’ your nuts other than from the kuruyemişçi (dry food merchant), so let’s move on. The contrast between the flat, low level plain covered by countless olive gardens as far as the eye can see and the higher elevations with its granite boulder strewn pine forests could not be greater. The views as you drive through or wander the forest paths are splendid – there is something about the shape of Stone Pines which creates a light and shadow effect that is almost unique and truly pleasing on the eye. Some of the elders (specimens) are so magnificent they just have to be hugged!

J giving and receiving warm fuzzies from one of the Kozak tribal elders

Lesvos from Kozak

You are drawn gently from ridge to ridge and valley to valley across countless ‘pin cushions’ that really are the proverbial ‘Forty Shades Of Green’. There are points where you can see for miles over the undulating forest with the occasional minaret breaking through the canopy or make out the Greek island of Lesvos to the West. Much of the forest is easily accessible for wandering, exploring and serious nature watching. J and I happened through at what is probably the worst time of the year for natural variety; one thing is for sure, we’ll be back in early 2013 when the rains have refreshed the land and Toprak Ana (Mother Earth) is, once again, decked out in her finest.

harvested pine cones drying in the autumn sun Kozak

Kozak pine nuts in the raw

. . and for those of you wondering what happened to the bluebell wood . .

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

20 thoughts on “Can’t See The Nuts For The Pines

  1. Sooo… this is how those pine nuts got their name… 😉 Btw, hugging trees is fun. My aunt taught me to do this when I was a kind and was wandering the forests with her and my grandparents collecting mushrooms.

  2. We really loved this post! We’ll bet that tree was appreciating and returning the hug. We’re going to Assos for K. Bayram so will make it a point to get up to that area. Thanks for the tip and keep on hugging!

  3. Our pine cones are being harvested by the squirrels, but instead of taking each cone, one by one, they bite off the ends of branches so that several cones fall at once. It took us a few weeks to work out what was happening to our trees.

  4. WooHoo!! Love the greenery in Kozak Stone Pine Forest from my heart. Hugging tree reminds me lots my old memory with my grandma indeed. You look great with the tree 🙂
    Thanks for the interesting post.

  5. These images are wonderful, and I am pleased to see the pine nut harvesting process, which I always wondered about. We wish we could have joined you in the latest forest gambit, but look forward to, hopefully, Black Sea plans next year.

    From the mountain of paper, Liz

    1. Black Sea plans? Caste them in stone! Blue Slugs – what more could a malacologist’s assistant ask for? Sorry for your mountain of paper – it is suppressing a blithe spirit!

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