Early September can be a sticky time in North Cyprus – and not just because of the weather. It’s the annual Ozanköy Pekmez Festival, a celebration of the “harnup,” or carob.
The carob, or molasses, was once the world’s favourite sweet
The carob, or molasses, was once the world’s favourite sweet – until the discovery of chocolate from the Aztecs in the 16th century. So valued were the dark, shiny seeds nestling inside their dangling brown pods, that, legend has it, they were used as a measure to weigh diamonds, hence carob became “carat.”
The North Cyprus shoreline is still dotted with carob houses, large stone warehouses where cargo ships from across the Mediterranean used to load their cargo, are testament to the wealth created by the trade. The countryside also boasts beautiful red-trunk carob trees, but nowadays their fruit is used mainly as feed for livestock.
But in the villages, the making of “pekmez” continues. That’s the sticky, treacle-like syrup obtained from the crushed fruit, delicious as a topping on most puddings and also an ingredient for cake. Ozanköy is the centre of this tradition. Every year it welcomes hundreds of visitors who want a taste of old Cyprus. They will find all sorts of molasses products, local handicrafts, ceramics, silkworm art and woodwork. The festival will take place on the weekend of the 1-3 September.