The distinct jewel-like fruit grows rampantly in Azerbaijan, and a special variety found only in the central, subtropical city of Goychay deems it the pomegranate capital. It is here that the annual Pomegranate Festival – now in its ninth year – takes place, attracting about 20,000 visitors, with farmers offering their wares.
Besides eating its red seeds and drinking the syrupy juice it produces, the fruit has been used for centuries in cooking, for dyeing threads and as an early form of fake tan (it’s still infused in many tanning lotions). Plus, the Koran praises it, the Torah refers to it as a symbol of righteousness and some scholars even think it was a pomegranate, not an apple, that tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden.
Pomegranate season runs from September to February, and harvest time kicks off with the festival, usually in late October.
Let the festivities begin!
It starts with food and fun in Goychay’s main square. Creative dishes incorporating the fruit in every conceivable way are in abundance: jelly, jam, sherbet, sorbet, cake, dumplings, stews, salad and, a particular speciality, narsharab, a sour sauce served over fish. Add to that some wacky costumes and competitions: the biggest pomegranate, the smallest pomegranate, and who can juice a pomegranate fastest using just their hands. Party on!
This story appeared in the Autumn 2014 issue of Baku magazine.