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Food culture event in Turin with Herat abjosh raisins

From 20 to 24 September, Turin will once again play host to “Terra Madre – Salone del Gusto”, one of the most important international food culture events. It will feature hundreds of products from all over the world, including the Herat abjosh raisins (Afghanistan), which are at risk of possible extinction.

“In an increasingly inter-connected world where everything can be bought online, it may not seem like a big deal to get products to Turin to make the Salone del Gusto unique: how hard could it be to just wrap up some honey, fonio millet, bulgur, etc. and send them to Italy? However, this process is only easy if we are talking about producers from the European Union, not for products that come from other continents: their trip is much more complicated,” said Piero Sardo, President of the non-profit Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity.

The Slow Food Presidium Herat abjosh raisins have a very special story. It took the joint forces of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (through the Crisis Management Unit of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and the Italian Embassy in Kabul) and the Ministry of Defence (through the Allied Joint Operations Forces Command and Defence Attaché in Kabul) to get them to Italy on board a military jet from Afghanistan. After almost 2 days of travelling, over 400 kilos of raisins arrived carefully sealed in 25 crates. “A team has been working since 2012 to ensure that this unique product can reach Turin to be appreciated by visitors to Terra Madre” added Sardo.

The history of the Herat raisins is shrouded in mystery. It is believed that they were grown by a nomadic people who lived in Central Asia around 2000 BC. Before the Soviet invasion of 1979, the Afghanistan abjosh raisin accounted for 60% of abjosh production worldwide. It was the country’s main crop, with hundreds of varieties. There are now only 44 varieties left, with 7 considered to be of superior quality. With the help of the University of Herat, the Slow Food Presidium has analysed and classified 27 varieties in accordance with their shape, colour, consistency and use.  The Fakhery grape variety is particularly interesting, and can only be found in Herat and Kandahar. This variety is used to produce the abjosh raisin (abjosh means “boiling water” due to the process the grapes undergo). Unlike other types of sun-dried raisins, the Fakhery variety maintains its light golden color. The Fakhery variety is also tender to the touch and in the mouth: the raisins are large and elongated, with the seeds still inside them.

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