Culinary Traditions Thrive in Jordan's Orchard-Filled Highlands

By Ivan PetrenkoApr 18, 2024 06:30 AMNews
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Brown and white concrete building on brown rocky mountain during daytime
Brown and white concrete building on brown rocky mountain during daytime. Source: unsplash

In the verdant highlands of northern Jordan, amidst sprawling orchards and olive groves, local culinary traditions offer a fresh, organic experience deeply rooted in the region's rich soil and vibrant culture. Nestled between the rustic villages of Orjan and Rasoun, I recently discovered how these lush landscapes serve not only as a backdrop but as a vital ingredient to the local lifestyle.

As I wandered through the gardens of Eisa, a local tour operator and passionate advocate for Jordanian heritage, the air was ripe with the fragrance of figs—a staple in local cuisine and a symbol of the region's agricultural bounty. Eisa, who also co-founded the Jordan Trail, has dedicated his life to showcasing the natural and cultural treasures of Jordan, particularly its culinary delights.

A Day Harvesting with Locals

The day began with a warm invitation to explore Eisa’s family orchard, a small yet bountiful plot where the branches bow under the weight of ripe pomegranates, figs, olives, and lemons. It’s here that one truly appreciates the connection between the land and the table—a relationship that Eisa joyfully shares with visitors and his own family.

After a morning in the orchard, we ventured into the local market to gather ingredients, a vibrant mosaic of community and commerce. The market bustles with energy, with vendors proudly displaying the fruits of the Jordanian earth. Here, locals prefer to sell their surplus produce, sharing the very essence of their gardens with neighbors and strangers alike.

Cooking and Community

Back at Eisa's home, the kitchen is the heart where family and guests gather. Eman, Eisa’s wife and an adept cook, introduced me to the traditional dish of maqluba—an aromatic marvel that she prepares with a mix of local vegetables and spices sourced from their garden. The process of cooking maqluba is itself a lesson in the Jordanian way of life: communal, generous, and deeply connected to the land.

The dining experience is communal, reflecting the Jordanian ethos of hospitality and sharing. As the dishes came to the table, each recipe told a story of the landscape, the climate, and the people who cultivate and cherish it. The meal, featuring not only maqluba but also freshly made sides like musakhan rolls and jarjeer salad, was a celebration of Jordanian agriculture and culinary artistry.

Sustainable Practices and Cultural Preservation

What stands out in northern Jordan is not just the food itself but the sustainable practices that underpin its production. The local reliance on seasonal and locally-sourced ingredients exemplifies a lifestyle that respects and preserves the environment—a practice that Eisa is keen to pass on to visitors and future generations.

As the sun set over the hills of Ajloun, the day concluded with stories and laughter, echoing the community spirit that defines this region. The simple act of sharing a meal extends beyond nourishment; it’s a communion with nature, heritage, and each other.

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