Harvest Festival of Rural Life and Traditions in Yerevan / Photo: Viktorya Mirzoyan
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I always thought that rural life is hard. The scenes of my grandfather working on his land are one my childhood’s sweetest memories. And although the flavor of the apricots and apples that grow there now speaks for itself, I can only imagine how much effort it takes to grow a fruit garden. So, when I learned about the Harvest Festival of Rural Life and Traditions that was to take place in Yerevan’s English Park, I decided not to miss the chance of reconnecting with the land. Organized by Green Lane NGO, it was the 4th Harvest Festival and my first one to attend.
The Harvest Festival in Yerevan was organized for 4th time / Photo: Viktorya Mirzoyan
Frankly speaking, I wasn't aware of the festival's program and didn't expect much, but I was happy for this opportunity to meet and talk with people who work hard and do not spare their efforts to cultivate the land. And as I entered the park, I was immediately blown away by the atmosphere: traditional Armenian music, kids running around like crazy and the sun shining like there’s no tomorrow. Rows of neat tables with nicely designed products on display and friendly, smiling, sunburnt faces. The sun in the fields must be strong. Just like these people.
I remembered how much I missed the smell and taste of fruits in Armenia when I was away from the country. I would have never imagined that along with my family and friends, the next thing I would miss most would be the local produce.
Armenian honey wine / Photo: Viktorya Mirzoyan
Giving in a bit to nostalgia, I then walked on to discover my first surprise. I was offered a honey wine! I was familiar with Armenian grape, pomegranate and even cherry wines, but honey? I decided to give it a try - after a few masterly acted out tasting sniffs and sips, I gulp the wine, top it with a spoon of organic honey, and walk on savoring the satisfaction of chewing the bonus natural beeswax.
What surprised me most was the fact that most of products displayed at the festival were produced by small groups of people, women’s collectives in villages. Amazing how hard these people are willing to work to make the best of what they have - this mountainous land of Armenia.
Pumpkins, rose hips, grapes - the gifts of the Armenian soil / Photo: Viktorya Mirzoyan
Strolling around, a bit tipsy on honey, I came across two friendly ladies inviting me over to their table and offering to try their organic tea. “It is very healthy, especially for women,” they said. Curious, I asked what does it help with, and the younger woman who looked like she knew exactly what she was talking about, explains me that this tea has many benefits for women. “We also have slimming teas,” she added. But tea has never been my cup of coffee, so I thanked them graciously and walked away.
Then, my eyes caught an image so familiar from childhood. Excited, I walked over to the other table where I noticed the orange colored berries. Sea buckthorn! In autumn, when driving to Dilijan or Sevan, you can see people standing along the road and selling buckets of sea buckthorn. We stopped every time to buy some and my grandmother always said: “This is the most useful thing!” But never specified what exactly it was good for.
The magical sea buckthorn / Photo: Viktorya Mirzoyan
As I learned at the Harvest Festival in Yerevan, sea buckthorn actually contains vitamins like E1, B1, B2, K1, P1, and the oil made from the seeds is a well-known treatment for wounds, burns, skin conditions, stomach ulcers, respiratory conditions. In other words – it basically treats everything. In the past, these ladies used to collect sea buckthorn growing in the wild and sell it along the road. But now they are a women’s collective, harvesting together and making preserves and jams under a brand name. I treated myself a bit more with this magic potion and continued the exploration.
Armenian herbal tea blends / Photo: Viktorya Mirzoyan
By the time I reached the end of the labyrinth, I’ve seen handmade jewelry and bags, organic soaps, tried cheese seasoned in wine, a plethora of colorful dried fruits and nuts, jams, preserves, lavash, machar (drink made from grapes not yet fully processed into wine), champagne, etc. Surprisingly, the stomachache I was experiencing the entire day was gone (or almost gone) by now and I will never know which of the treasures of my homeland cured me. Maybe it’s the realization that this country has all: the sun, the land, the hardworking people and the determination to make it.