FRUIT

(mīva). Jean Chardin (1643-1713) reported (p. 24) that “in Persia there were all the same kinds of fruit as in Europe and many others, all incomparatively delicious.” He noted the great variety of melons, cucumbers, grapes, dates, apricots, pomegranates, apples, pears, oranges, quinces, prunes, figs, pistachios, almonds, walnuts, filberts, and olives.

 

FRUIT, mīva (Mid. Pers. mēwag). This article presents mainly some general points and statistics about fruits in Persia-past and present; for the more important individual fruits see the relevant articles.

Due to the great latitudinal, topographic, and climatic diversity of present-day Persia (and, a fortiori, of her much larger past geographical extent), a great variety of fruits are found in the country, from (sub)tropical dates to fruits growing in temperate and cold regions. There are numerous historical indications of fruit diversity and abundance in Persia in the Islamic period (see below). As to pre-Islamic times, rather substantial information about fruits is found only in two surviving documents: the Pahlavi story Xusraw ī Kawādān ud rēdag and the Bundahišn (q.v.). In the former (ed. and tr. Unvala, secs. 38-41, 44-46, 49-53, pp. 22-25; ed. and tr. Monchi-zadeh, secs. 43, 45-46, 48, 50-53, pp. 73-74), which relates to the time of Ḵosrow I Anūšīravān (r. 531-79 C.E.), are mentioned two exotic “fruits”: coconut (q.v.) and “Chinese ginger” (wrongly considered a fruit), and a number of native ones as the best for specified purposes: almond (see BĀDĀM), walnut, “Armenian” peach, apple, quince (see BEH), cucumber (q.v.; according to Monchi-zadeh, sec. 45; wrongly “prickly lemon” in Unvala, sec. 45), “red and white orange” (sic; Monchi-zadeh’s interpretation, ibid.), myrobalan, citron (see BĀLANG; CITRUS FRUITS), “Hyrcanian” pistachio (see PESTA), (roasted) chickpeas (ibid., sec. 51), Ḥīra dates (ibid. sec. 52; see DATE PALM), chestnut, and hemp seeds “from Nīšāpūr” (in Unvala; “from Siyā-razūr=Šah-razūr,” according to Monchi-zadeh, sec. 53). In the much shorter Arabic version of this story, as related by Ṯaʿālebī (Ḡorar, pp. 705-11), who places it in the time of Ḵosrow II Parvēz (r. 590-628 C.E.), only the following fruits are mentioned (p. 708): almond, coconut, sweet and sour pomegranates (q.v.), apple, date, “Armenian” peach, and citron from Ṭabarestān.

The Bundahišn (tr. Anklesaria, pp. 150-51; tr. Bahār, p. 88; see also Asmussen’s and Porouchani’s studies) contains a crude division of the “principal fruits” into three classes, with thirty species: (1) ten species edible both outside and inside: fig, apple, quince, cucumber (wādrang; according to Porouchani, p. 211; wrongly “citron” in Anklesaria, Asmussen, p. 17, and Bahār), grapes, mulberry, pear, etc. (the three others are not mentioned); (2) ten species edible only outside: date, peach, apricot, sinjad (modern Pers. senjed; oleaster, Russian olive), āleg (azarole; Porouchani’s reading and identification, pp. 216-17), kunār (NPers. konār, fruit of Zizyphus spina-christi Willd.; Porouchani, p. 216), ālūg (plum, q.v.), sāl (jujube; Porouchani’s reading and identification, p. 215), etc. (the other two are not mentioned); (3) ten species edible only inside: walnut, almond, pomegranate, coconut, hazelnut, chestnut, pistachio, etc. (three not mentioned).

According to an islamicized version of this classification (Ṭabarī, I, p. 128), these thirty fruits were those “with which God…provided Adaɱwhen he was made to descend to the Earth” [from Paradise]. The items missing in the Bundahišn list are supplemented as follows: for class (1): carob, beṭṭīḵ (sic; = NPers. ḵarboza; see MELONS); for class (2): moql (fruit of doom palm; see Maimonides, no. 230, p. 114), šāhlūj (a kind of yellow plum, present-day ālū-zard?; cf. Esḥāq Esrāʾīlī, II, p. 174: šāhlūj = “white plum”); and for class (3): opium poppy capsule, acorn, and banana. According to another version related by Masʿūdī (Morūj, ed. Pellat, I, p. 37), Adam, upon his fall from paradise, was furnished with a heap of wheat plus twigs cut off from thirty fruit trees of paradise. In class (1) above, Masʿūdī has included both qeṯṯāʾ and ḵīār as two different species (for the synonyms see CUCUMBER), and in class (2) he has qarāsīā (cherry) instead of šāhlūj.

In the Islamic period, many Arab or Persian geographers have mentioned the most important fruits in the related town or provinces in Persia, but none has provided a general, even short, survey of fruits in Persia and related neighboring regions. Individual fruit trees and their cultivation have also been treated by a few native agriculturists, e.g., Ḵᵛāja Rašīd-al-Dīn Fażl-Allāh Hamadānī (d. 718/1318) in Āṯār o aḥyāʾ and Abūnaṣrī Heravī (comp. 921/1515-16). But starting in the Safavid era, some European travelers, diplomats, etc., usually have included general but short surveys of fruits in their travelogs or reports, usually comparing the indigenous fruits with those of their countries. For example, Jean Baptiste Tavernier (1605-89 C.E.) remarks (tr., bk. 4, pp. 365 f.): “In Persia there are all sorts of fruits as in France, but not so abundantly, save in some places such as Isfahan. [They] do not taste as good as ours, because [the trees] are only irrigated.” He deals particularly with the varieties of ḵarboza (a kind of Persian melon) in Isfahan province. Jean Chardin (q.v.; 1643-1713) reports (p. 24) that “in Persia there were all the same kinds of fruit as in Europe and many others, all incomparatively delicious.” This despite the fact that, according to him, “little was understood about horticulture, such as pruning or grafting,” and that “the [fruit] trees were generally old woody [ones].” As for the diversity of fruits he remarks that he “was present at some meals in Isfahan where there were more than fifty kinds of fruit,” pointing out that “there was nothing like it in France or Italy.” He particularly vaunts the great variety of melons (“more than fifty varieties”), cucumbers, grapes, dates, apricots, “some fifteen kinds of stone fruit,” pomegranates, apples, pears, oranges, quinces, prunes, figs, pistachios, almonds, walnuts, filberts, and olives (cf. the sarcastic comments of Raphaël du Mans, pp. 227-29, in 1660).

Dehydrated fruits (ḵoškbār). Ḵoškbār in Persia includes, besides various nuts (namely, walnut, pistachio, and hazel) that are naturally protected by their hard shells, some fruits and seeds the preservation and export of which need dehydration to various degrees and occasionally some additional processing (stoning, salting, roasting, fumigation). The most important items in the latter category are the date, grapes (in the form of various raisins, kešmeš), apricot, pear (golābī), sour cherry (ālbālū, q.v.), ālū, fig, and seeds (toḵma) of pumpkin (kadū, q.v.) and of watermelon. For the now uncommon practice of drying the ḵarboza, see below.

The ordinary way of drying the larger drupes, namely the peach and apricot, is to cut each fruit into two lobes, stone it, and let the halved fruits dry up in sunshine. The dried halved fruits are currently called barga (e.g., barga-ye holū and barga-ye zard-ālū). In this sense the word barga cannot be traced earlier than the period of Nāṣer-al-Dīn Shah Qājār (1848-96; Abrīšamī, s.v.). Earlier synonyms for barga are: kešta (see, e.g., Loat-e fors, ed. Dabīrsīāqī, p. 77, mentioning amrūd-e/šaftālūd-e/zardālūd-e kešta; still used in Afghanistan [Afḡānīnevīs, s.v.] and in Khorasan [Šakūrzāda, p. 185] only for dried stoned apricots), and qāq (a word of uncertain origin: Turk. qāq “jerked meat,” or turkized Pers. kāk? see, e.g., Dāʿī-al-Eslām and Moʿīn, both s.vv. qāq and kāk; still used in Tajikistan, see Mīrzāyof, p. 146, referring to qāq-e šaftālū and qāq-e zard-ālū). For semi-dried apricots, Turk. qeysī (sometimes spelled qeyṣī) has been used (in Tajikistan, according to Mīrzāyof, p. 140, it designates “dried mulberry or apricot”). In the past, however, qeysī also designated (a kind of) apricot in general; see, e.g., Anṣārī Šīrāzī (comp. 770/1368-69; s.v. mešmeš), and Rāmpūrī (comp. 1242/1826-27; s.v.). In Afghanistan, qaysī designates “an excellent variety of apricot” (Afḡānīnevīs, s.v.).

Preparing ḵoškbār has a long history in Persia (for evidences see Faršī, no. 4, p. 16). In the Islamic period there are numerous references to dried fruits and their proveniences: (1) Ḵarboza: Several authors have referred to places in the greater Khorasan of old where extraordinarily fine ḵarboza was cultivated and also dried for conservation and export. In the 9th century, Ebn al-Faqīh (p. 254) mentions Khorasan in general, saying,”they have…beṭṭīḵ which is cut into strips and dried” (moqaddad). In the next century, Eṣṭaḵrī (p. 262) and Ebn Ḥawqal (p. 436) specify Marv, adding that they “do not know this [process] to be feasible in any other country” (concerning Marv, cf. also “qāq” [=kešta-ye ḵarboza] mentioned by Ḥāfeẓ-e Abrū [d. 1430], II, fol. 176a). Rašīd-al-Dīn Fażl-Allāh (Sawānehá, p. 185) indicates Samarqand: 200 mans of “ḵarbūza-ye moqaddad-e samarqandī” were assigned to Khorasan people as part of the annual ḵarāj that they had to offer to the Il-khanid administrative center. Ebn Baṭṭūṭa (p. 370; q.v.) reports that “the wonderful thing about Ḵᵛārazmian beṭṭīkò, matchless in the world, is that they cut it into strips and dry it in the sunshine…and they carry it from Ḵᵛārazm to the remotest cities of India and China,” and that “there is nothing better than this (qadīd al-beṭṭīḵ) among dried fruits.” Asfezārī (comp. 1491-93; I, pp. 170-71) mentions the qāq-e ḵarboza of Šaborḡān (in the province of Jūzjān), whence “it was taken to Herāt and [other] provinces,” adding that “it is not tasteless.” (2) Pear (golābī, formerly amrūd): “Amrūd-e kešta” is mentioned by Abu’l-Maṯal Boḵārī (q.v.), a poet of the Samanid court (quoted in Loḡat-e fors, ed. Dabīrsīāqī, p. 78) and by the 11th century poet Sūzanī Samarqandī (p. 368). Rašīd-al-Dīn Fażl-Allāh (Sawānehá, p. 185) indicates an annual tribute of 1,000 mans of dried amrūd to be furnished by the district of Mehrān. (3) Šaftālū ([a variety of] peach): According to Ṯaʿālebī (Laṭāʾef, pp. 234-35), from Ray “were sent 1,000 raṭls of dried šaftālū to the king in addition to the annual ḵarāj.” Rašīd-al-Dīn Fażl-Allāh (Sawānehá, p. 184) requisitioned for the Il-khanid court 100 mans thereof yearly from each of the three provinces of Ray, Qom, and Hamadān. (4) Apricot: According to the 11th-century author Ebn al-Balḵī (p. 124), “zard-ālū-ye kešta,” made at Sormaq (in the district of Eṣṭaḵr, Fārs) with a local variety of apricot “unique in the world as to sweetness and fineness,” was exported. Zakarīyāʾ Qazvīnī (d. 1283; p. 290) reports “a very good [variety of] apricot” of Kāšān, which was dried and “taken as a gift to other cities.” Rašīd-al-Dīn (Sawānehá, pp. 182-83) details the numerous varieties and the amounts of apricot kešta yearly requisitioned from Tabrīz, Kāšān, Hamadān, Besṭām, Yazd, and Arzanjān (the latter in Anatolia). Ebn Baṭṭūṭa (p. 210) mentions the “incomparable” qamar-al-dīn variety of apricot in Isfahan, which was dried and stored away.

Preparing dried fruits. Among the above authors only Rašīd-al-Dīn Fażl-Allāh (Āṯār, p. 19) incidentally refers to the method of preparing dried fruits: When mentioning the excellent “peeled and then dried” ālū (=varieties of plum) of Bukhara, he adds: “This [method], experimented in the case of all fruits, is much better; it is better to half-dry them in the sun or fully dry them in the shade.” In our time, Mo ḥammad-Ḥosayn Faršī, an expert in ḵoškbār, deploring in 1960 the “stagnation of Persia’s ḵoškbār export” (no. 6, pp. 39-40), criticizes the primitive, unsanitary, and inappropriate ways of drying drupes in Persia: As in hundreds of years ago, over 70 percent of ḵoškbār items are left to dry in the sun on bare ground in the open; the fruits are thus exposed to pollution by dust, dirt, insects, etc. Only in some important ḵoškbār-making areas (e.g., Marāḡa and Urmia) some ḵoškbār producers lay the fruits on special wooden platters, but oftener the fruits are laid on a sloping sunny ground plastered with kāh-gel (a mixture of chopped straw and mud or clay) to reduce contact with earth. Some producers, before leaving the fruits (especially seedless grapes and various plums) to dry, soak them in qalyāb (a solution of crude potash and quicklime); this treatment, meant to speed up dehydration, gives an unpleasant odor and taste to the fruits (Faršī recommends a dilute solution of pure caustic soda). Another modern process, meant to preserve the natural coloring of ḵoškbār, is to fumigate the fruits with sulfur. Faršī deplores the Persian ḵoškbār producers’ ignorance of proper, adequate sulfurization.

Other fruit products. These include canned juices, jams, compotes, and pomegranate rob. The steady expansion of canning industry in Persia in the last four decades for domestic consumption and, in recent years, partly for export has decreased the need for and production of some ḵoškbār articles, namely, apricot, peach, plum, cherry, fig, and citron (peel). In 1995-96 there were 153 registered non-meat canning factories (konserv-sāzī) in the country, most of which produced one or more types of the above products (Šerkat-e taʿāwonī, pp. 23-33). To promote non-oil exports, the government has determined internationally acceptable standards for the following fruits and fruit products: grapes; seedy and seedless raisins; dried plums; qeysī; apricot and peach barga; peach, pear, apple, pistachio, apricot and peach kernels; dried figs; walnuts; hazelnuts; five varieties of dates; pomegranates; various compotes; and orange/grapefruit/apple/grape/cherry /pomegranate juices (Šerkat-e taʿāwonī, pp. 4-5).

Ḵoškbār exports in the 20th century. With occasional fluctuations, ḵoškbār has been an important export item in Persia. The earliest reliable record thereof (reported by Jamālzāda, p. 18) relates to the qoy-īl year 1907-8: A total of 46,332,403 qarāns’ worth of ḵoškbār (and some fresh fruits) was exported, over 80 percent to Russia, and the rest to India, Ottoman Turkey, and Great Britain. For pīčī-īl year 1908-9 the following details of export are recorded (Jamālzāda, p. 19): raisins: 10,101,039 mans, valued 23,025,913 qarāns; almonds and pistachios: 1,258,774 mans, valued 11,255,285 qarāns; dates: 3,308,792 mans, valued 3,512,108 qarāns; walnuts and hazelnuts: 222,150 mans, valued 487,589 qarāns; fresh portoqāl (sweet orange) and līmū (lime, lemon): 101,017 mans, valued 151,015 qarāns; “other fruits”:(?) 3,621,684 mans, valued 8,278,954 qarāns. As can be seen, raisins constituted almost half of the total quantity of Persian exports of (dried) fruits.

More recent statistics about fresh and dried fruit exports, provided by Faršī (no. 4, p. 16), includes the following: In 1337 Š./1958-59, 21,500,000 U.S. dollars’ worth of “fruit and ḵoškbār” was exported (second only to 305,000,000 U.S. dollars’ revenue from oil products export), constituting about 30 percent of the country’s exports. Concerning the export of apricot barga, Faršī (no. 9, p. 49) points out that, despite the above-mentioned defects in ḵoškbār production, and notwithstanding improper sorting and packaging of ḵoškbār items (Faršī, no. 6, p. 39), Persia was by far the biggest apricot barga exporter in the world in the period 1951-59, with an average export of 7,272 tons in 1951-55, and 8,467 tons in 1955-59 (the next biggest exporter was the U.S.A. with averages of 1,559 tons in 1951-55, and 1,483 tons in 1955-59). In the period under study, the importers of Persian apricot barga were, in decreasing order of purchase, West Germany, France, England, Holland, Iraq, Sweden, and “some Asian countries” (Faršī, no. 9, p. 50).

Latest available fruit import and export statistics. A summary of the data released to date (March 1997) by Gomrok-e … Īrān, pertaining to the year 1373 Š./1994-95, is given in Table 1Table 2, and Table 3.

Poetical descriptions of fruits. Some particular fruits—namely, apple, grapes, almond, quince, pomegranate, and bitter orange (nāranj)—have inspired some classical Persian poets fond of nature with ingenious similes and sometimes far-fetched metaphorical associations, especially in the description of the autumn (or autumnal festivities such as Mehrgān feast) as a prelude to an encomium (madḥ, madīḥa). For example, Manūčehrī Dāmḡānī (d. 432/1040-41) depicts a two-tone apple as follows (pp. 7-8): “And that apple [is] like a sick person who, from all the body parts, has only the two cheeks: one cheek yellow because of jaundice, the other red due to [feverish] blood agitation.” (Similar spectacular, contrived imagery is also found for the above fruits in two other mosammaṭs of his, pp. 147-52, and 198-205). Another poet in the same century, Qaṭrān Tabrīzī describes the quince as follows (p. 156): “The ābī [=quince] is dusty [i.e., downy] and yellow [i.e., pallid] like the face of a [forlorn] bī-del [= heartbroken lover]; its eye [i.e., the dimple left on the growing ovary of some fruits after the falling off of the calyx and corolla] and scent [are respectively] like the navel and the fragrant breath of a sweetheart.” He compares (p. 195) the “yellow wrinkled bādrang (citron) to “the face of the ailing/dolorous.” On the other hand, the sweetheart (maʿšūqa)’s narrow oval eyes, narrow lips parted in a smile, (dimpled) chin, and round hard breasts have often been compared respectively to almonds, a pistachio nut split open, and pomegranates.

Nearer our time, the neoclassical Bahai poet Moḥammad-Naʿīm Sedehī (1856-1916), departing from the stereotyped references to fruits in a well-known mosammaṭ (pp. 163-73), has used novel, picturesque imagery to depict seven summer and autumn fruits as wonderful signs of God’s manifestations as a preamble to his long eulogy addressed to ʿAbd-al-Bahāʾ (q.v.). For example, he describes the pomegranate (its scarlet grains, whitish septa, and tough rind) as follows (p. 165): “The ruby-making nature has again hewed the ruby, has arranged the hewn ruby [pieces] close to each other, has wrapped these in silver [envelopes], which he has disposed in a casket.” The nāranj with its corrugated peel is described as follows (ibid.): “[When] the orange tree was a matured little girl, she was inflated by spring breeze and became pregnant in the garden. It gave birth to a plump baby without a midwife’s help. Its plump infant’s body [later] became all covered with smallpox pimples whose moist scars remained on its rosy face.”

 

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(Hūšang Aʿlam)

Originally Published: December 15, 2000

Last Updated: January 31, 2012

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