A Delicious Look at 3 Famous Afghan Fruits

Did you know that Afghanistan has long been famous for its many delicious types of fresh fruit? Despite the popular image of Afghanistan as an arid, rugged desert, the country in fact possesses fertile soil and a warm and dry climate that provide the perfect growing conditions for a rich variety of fruit.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock, at least 1.5 million tons of fruit are produced every year, two-thirds of which are consumed within the country. Read on to learn more about some of Afghanistan’s most popular and delicious fruits: grapes, melons, and pomegranates.

Grapes

Given their high productivity and significant commercial value, it’s not surprising that grapes are one of the most attractive horticultural crops in Afghanistan. Grape production tends to be concentrated in a handful of central Afghan provinces, where lush green vineyards are a common sight. Hussaini, taifi, kata, and kasendra are among the more popular varietals for fresh grapes; varieties for raisin production include the keshmeshi and shondakhanai.

A unique way to keep grapes fresh

In order to keep grapes fresh for months after they are harvested, some Afghan farmers rely on a preservation technique developed centuries ago in Afghanistan’s rural north. Known as kangina, this method involves packing fresh grapes into homemade mud containers, which are then sealed with more mud and stored in a dry, cool place. The clay-rich mud keeps air and moisture away from the grapes and insulates them from the cold, thus allowing them to stay perfectly fresh for around six months. Typically, grapes are preserved using kangina in the autumn so that they can then be eaten fresh at Nowruz, or new year, which falls on the spring equinox.

Transforming grapes into raisins

Grapes that are not eaten right away or preserved using the kangina method are dried and made into raisins. This drying process can take place naturally in the sun, but it’s also common for grape growers to dry their fruit in traditional “raisin rooms” known as keshmesh khanas. While fresh grapes are certainly delicious, raisins are usually easier to store and preserve, and often fetch a higher price than their fresh counterparts.

Melons

Along with grapes, melons are one of Afghanistan’s most prized fresh fruit exports, as well as a popular crop for domestic consumption. Kabul in particular is renowned for its bountiful melon market. While melons are grown all over the country, the best melons are generally agreed to come from Kunduz in northern Afghanistan.

Dozens of different varieties

Melons of all shapes, sizes, and colors are grown in Afghanistan; in fact, the country produces an estimated 38 varieties of melon. Some of the most famous types include the sawzmaghz, a green, not-too-sweet melon that is prized for its thirst-quenching properties; the zormati, a round, medium-sized bright yellow melon that smells strongly of flowers; the qashoqi, a large, pale yellow melon with pulp so soft that it must be eaten with a spoon; and the arkani (or qoter), which has a very thick and resistant skin that allows the melon to be easily transported or stored through the winter. Watermelons are also widely grown.

The preferred fruit of royalty

Afghan melons were a particular favorite of Babur, the first emperor of the Mughal dynasty who made Kabul his capital for two decades in the early 16th century. When the Mughals shifted their capital to the Indian city of Agra, Babur, who was also an avid gardener, had melon seeds and an expert agronomist brought with him so that Afghan melons could be grown in the royal gardens there.

Pomegranates

Embedded in myths and stories over thousands of years of human history, few fruits are more famous than the pomegranate, and Afghanistan’s pomegranates are particularly renowned. Pomegranates are grown all over the country—the season lasts from October to January—but an especially prized variety is the Kandahar pomegranate, which boasts an exceptional sweetness and hefty size. This pomegranate can weigh up to one kilogram!

A medicinal fruit

The pomegranate has long been valued for its many health benefits, and it is still an important medicinal ingredient in many Afghan households today. Just about every part of the pomegranate, including the leaves, flowers, and bark of the tree, can be used for a medicinal purpose. For example, dried pomegranate skin can be ground into a powder to treat anemia, while the juicy pomegranate seeds, known as arils, can help prevent a great variety of conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

A fruit worth celebrating

A special festival celebrating the red pomegranate blossom is held in mid-February in the Kandahar region. During the festival, which is known as the Anar Gul, poets gather together to honor the pomegranate, often by reciting verses featuring the fruit that are drawn from Afghanistan’s rich poetic heritage.

7 Fun Facts about the Most Popular Beverage in Afghanistan

Few experiences are more quintessentially Afghan than the simple act of drinking tea. Black or green, plain or sweet, tea is widely (though unofficially) recognized as the national beverage of Afghanistan due to the important role it plays in daily life all over the country.

Feeling thirsty yet? Read on to learn some fascinating facts about Afghanistan’s most popular drink.

Afghans drink a lot of tea.

Believe it or not, Afghans drink more tea than anyone else in the world! According to data from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, Afghanistan imported 299 million pounds of tea in 2012. This makes Afghanistan the world’s third largest importer of tea, surpassed only by Russia (close to 400 million pounds) and the UK (319 million pounds).

However, when you look at how many pounds of tea were imported per capita, Afghanistan takes the lead by an impressive margin, having imported nearly 10 pounds of tea per person, which is enough to brew over 1,500 cups of tea (by comparison, the UK imported just over five pounds per person). In other words, Afghanistan imports enough tea for every Afghan to drink four or five cups daily all year round!

Tea is strongly linked with Afghan hospitality.

One of the reasons why so much tea is consumed in Afghanistan is that the beverage is an essential element of Afghan hospitality. Afghans are an extremely hospitable people, and treating guests with generosity and honor is considered to be a reflection of personal reputation. Offering tea is one of the most important ways that this hospitality is demonstrated.

If you are ever a guest in an Afghan home, you will always be offered tea: this is a sign of the host’s respect for you, just as your acceptance of the offer is a sign of your respect for your host. You can then expect to have your cup constantly refilled throughout your visit. To politely signal to your host that you have had enough, you can turn your cup upside down, or you can cover it with your hand and thank them.

Tea can be made and served in a variety of vessels.

In many businesses and households, tea is brewed in large traditional kettles or urns known as samovars: these vessels keep a large supply of tea hot and ready all day. As for serving, different types of cups may be used depending on where you are.

If you are in an urban household, such as a home in Kabul, your tea may be served in Western style teacups. In other places, vessels used to serve tea include small, short glasses called istakhan, or porcelain bowls without handles, known as piala, that are similar to Chinese tea bowls.

Tea can be sweetened or unsweetened.

In Afghanistan, tea is drunk with and without sugar, and you will usually be served both sweetened and unsweetened tea as a guest in an Afghan home. For example, it is a typical Afghan custom for the first cup of tea offered to a guest to be heavily sweetened: this sweet tea is known as chai shireen, and the more sugar the cup contains, the greater the honor shown to the guest.

It’s then usual for the next cup of tea to be served without sugar; this plain tea is called chai talkh. When having tea in their own homes or in cafes, Afghans often dip lumps of sugar called qand in their tea, and then hold these lumps in their mouths as they sip rather than placing them directly in the cup.

Tea is often served with particular foods.

In addition to being offered tea in an Afghan home, you will also be offered food, usually the best that the household has to offer. Some typical foods that are served with tea when entertaining guests include shirnee, which are sweet candies that are similar to toffee; noql, which are sugar-coated almonds, pistachios, or chickpeas; and kulcha, which are biscuits or pastries that may be made at home or purchased from local bakeries.

A special kind of tea is prepared for formal occasions.

While ordinary green and black tea is consumed on a daily basis in Afghanistan, formal occasions often involve the preparation of a special kind of tea known as qymaq chai. To make this tea, green tea is brewed, and then bicarbonate of soda is added, which turns the tea a dark red color. To finish the tea, milk and sugar are added, and the beverage becomes purple-pink in color. Qymaq chai has a strong, rich taste, and is often prepared for events such as engagements and weddings.

You can make one of the most popular kinds of Afghan tea at home (kahwah tea).

The most popular kind of everyday tea consumed in Afghanistan is known as kahwah tea, and it’s easy to make at home, wherever you are. It’s a traditional combination of green tea, cardamom, cinnamon, and saffron, and every family will usually have their own version of the recipe. To make it yourself, add the spices to water and bring to a boil; then add the green tea and let steep. To serve, sweeten with either sugar or honey.

Spotlight on the Bayat Foundation’s Families in Need Program

Dedicated to the education, wellbeing, and health of Afghanistan’s people, the Bayat Foundation strives to help Afghans flourish irrespective of gender, ethnicity, age, religion, or marital status. The foundation was established with the aim of unlocking the potential of every man, woman, and child through a variety of national and regional initiatives.

In this article, we look at the impact of the Bayat Foundation’s Families in Need campaign, which addresses the unique challenges of Afghan families in some of the country’s most remote communities.

The Bayat Foundation supports at-risk families

The Bayat Foundation

Through Bayat Family funds, support from partner NGOs throughout Afghanistan, and the generous support of its patrons, the Bayat Foundation has established numerous campaigns designed to improve the standards of living and prospects for tens of thousands of Afghan families.

In the winter of 2008-09, the Bayat Foundation initiated a Winter Aid program, providing life-saving aid packages containing flour, blankets, and oil to at-risk households throughout many provinces, including Kabul, Sar-e-pul, Faryab, Badakhshan, and Khost.

The Bayat Foundation provided Ramadan assistance in response to COVID-19

As part of its activities to counter the spread of the virus and reduce the negative economic and societal impact, the Bayat Foundation coordinated the distribution of food and essential items across Afghanistan throughout the month of Ramadan.

The packages provided aid to vulnerable families to numerous Afghan provinces, delivering essential items to thousands of displaced workers and their families at a time of unprecedented need.

The Bayat Foundation was founded by Dr. Ehsan Bayat and Mrs. Fatema Bayat

It was established with the mission of creating opportunities for families across Afghanistan. As the founder of the Bayat Group, a parent company of several highly profitable Afghan enterprises in the telecom, media, logistics, industrial infrastructure, and security sectors, Dr. Bayat has implemented at his companies stringent corporate social responsibility policies designed to support sustainable development throughout Afghanistan.

A holdings company, the Bayat Group has subsidiaries including the Ariana Television and Radio Network, Ariana Network Services, Afghan Wireless, and Bayat Energy. With such a large reach, the Bayat Group is uniquely placed to reach communities throughout Afghanistan today.

Through its subsidiaries, the group has helped redefine key sectors of industry, and it is credited with making a significant difference to the Afghan economy. Through its charitable initiatives, the Bayat Group has made a difference in the everyday lives of Afghan citizens.

Afghan Wireless connects millions of Afghan customers at home and abroad. The Ariana Television and Radio Network has helped showcase Afghan culture and arts, providing informative, entertaining, and enlightening programming for viewers across Afghanistan and beyond.

Building on the group’s strong reputation of corporate giving, the Bayat Foundation’s highly effective charitable outreach programs have improved the lives of thousands of Afghans, supporting the nation’s elderly and disadvantaged while simultaneously stimulating national growth via investment in frontier markets, such as gas and oil exploration, development, and production.

The Bayat Foundation is also committed to Afghan children and youth. It invests in medical facilities to ensure healthy births, helps build new schools to provide quality education, and assists in the development of world-class industries and a state-of-the-art communications infrastructure to provide the next generation of Afghans with increased career opportunities.

Among the Bayat Foundation’s considerable achievements over the last 20 years is the construction of 14 hospitals serving over 1.5 million Afghan children and mothers. During the harsh Afghan winter, the Bayat Foundation’s Winter Aid program delivers precious food supplies, warm clothing, and thousands of blankets to families living in Afghanistan’s remotest regions.

The Bayat Foundation is committed to providing continued support to communities throughout Afghanistan, helping the country regain its rightful place as a political, economic, and cultural leader in Central Asia. As Mrs. Fatema Bayat explains, serving Afghans is at the very heart of all of the Bayat Foundation’s activities.

Founded in 2006, the Bayat Foundation strives to improve the lives of millions of Afghans, providing food, clothing, entrepreneurship programs, athletics, orphan care, and much more, delivering support and inspiration to at-risk Afghans.

The Bayat Foundation launched its Family Sponsorship program in 2008

Through the initiative, donors pledge $65 per month to support Afghan families in need. The impact of this modest donation is potentially life-changing. It negates the need for children to beg on the streets, enabling them to attend school, vastly increasing their educational opportunities, and with it, their career prospects and lifetime potential.

The Bayat Foundation has helped lower Afghan maternal and infant mortality rates

Over the past few years, the Bayat Foundation has coordinated the construction of healthcare facilities throughout eight Afghan provinces, providing maternal and newborn care facilities where none existed previously. These 150-bed hospitals serve hundreds of thousands of Afghan women per year, providing life-saving maternity care—for free, in many cases.