The Middle East is a fascinating place when we are talking about where our fruit, vegetables, and other foods come from.
Not only is it likely that the Middle East was one of the first cradles of large-scale human civilization, but it is also one of the places where agriculture gets its first big breaks.
Large societies mean lots of mouths to feed after all, so perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that so many vegetables come from the Middle East.
How many vegetables, you ask? Well, that’s what this list is going to cover! We’re going to show you just a few of the many vegetables and plant foods that come from this region.
You might find some familiar veggie faces here!
Spinach is another one of those vegetables that people don’t think much about until they run out of it. But this leafy green vegetable is quite tasty!
Spinach has been a part of Mediterranean cuisine for hundreds of years, being used in stews, soups, stir-fries, and a whole host of other recipes.
In addition to being delicious, spinach contains lots of vitamins and minerals, fiber, protein, and iron. One cup of cooked spinach provides approximately 25% of your daily vitamin
A requirements, along with 7 grams of dietary fiber and 8 percent of your daily vitamin C needs.
It’s also an excellent source of calcium, potassium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, niacin, riboflavin, thiamine, zinc, copper, folate, pantothenic acid, and B6.
Cooked spinach has 60 calories per cup, and raw spinach has 90 calories per cup.
Cabbage is one of those vegetables that is eaten in almost every culture across the world. Today cabbage is grown extensively worldwide and is used in salads, soups, stews, and casseroles.
Cabbage was probably one of the first crops that was cultivated and farmed by people thousands of years ago.
It was likely from this cradle of human civilization that this vegetable found its way across the world and onto our dinner plates.
In the Middle East today, people often eat cabbage salad with meat dishes. The most common dish is called “mujadara”.
This dish is usually served as a side dish along with rice. However, it can also be prepared as a main course.
There are many ways to prepare this dish. For instance, you can add cheese, garlic, or green onions to the mix.
There are two types of cabbage commonly found in the Middle East. One type is white cabbage. White cabbage is frequently braised or cooked slowly until soft.
The other type is red cabbage. Red cabbage is cooked quickly and then chopped into small pieces. It is typically added to spicy dishes, where it is combined with spices, potatoes, and carrots.
Chard is always available along the Mediterranean coast, as well as in Middle Eastern countries. In Lebanon, chard is usually served as “choucroute”, a kind of sauerkraut.
The most common variety used is called ‘coulibiac’.
This vegetable is often found in Lebanese soups (such as ‘kibeet el haniya’ and ‘fattoush’). It is also quite popular in Greek salads.
In Turkey, it is sometimes cooked with olive oil and lemon juice and then sprinkled with salt.
Chard also plays a pretty pivotal role in Israeli cuisine. There is a dish called “chouckro” which consists of thin slices of potato and chard that are fried in oil.
It is also eaten raw, combined with garlic and parsley. This combination is known as “tzukhenaya”.
Chard is considered to be a vegetable that is low in calories and rich in iron. However, this is simply not true. One cup of cooked chard contains about 40 calories and 1 g of carbohydrates.
It is also high in vitamins A and C.
Turnips are used in many cuisines across the globe, particularly in countries in the Middle East.
In Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Palestine, and Egypt, turnips are often served with meat dishes such as kebabs, shawarma, and kibbeh nayyeh.
In Turkey, turnips are commonly found in salads, soups, and stews. In Iran, they’re typically sautéed with garlic and onion and then added to rice pilafs.
When purchasing turnips, look for firm, bright green leaves and stems without any signs of decay. The roots should be smooth and firm.
Store turnips at room temperature and use within a week.
Carrots are one of the most popular vegetables in the world, and they are found in nearly every cuisine.
Despite how ubiquitous they are with American and European cuisine, carrots first came to Europe from the Middle East, where the legendary ‘Silk Road’ allowed trade between the Middle East and East Asia.
One of those goods that the Silk Road gave us was the carrot, which is believed to have been first found and grown in what is now Afghanistan.
Carrot juice was used as a medicine in Greece, India, China, and Turkey. Being Native to the Middle East, carrots grow well in warm climates.
Persian types of carrot grow best in areas with temperatures between 50°F and 90°F. In addition to growing well in warm weather, these carrots do not require much water.
They grow well without irrigation and require little fertilizer.
Whilst they’re native plants of the Americas, tomatoes have found widespread use in pretty much every cuisine across the globe, and the Middle East is no exception.
Tomatoes and tomato products are widely consumed across the globe, and in many countries, they form a substantial part of the diet.
Tomatoes are considered one of the most nutritious fruits, providing essential nutrients such as vitamins A and C, potassium, folate, iron, fiber, and antioxidants such as lycopene.
They also contain various dietary minerals, such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper, zinc, and selenium.
Some studies suggest that consuming tomatoes may contribute to a reduction in chronic diseases, such as diabetes and coronary artery disease.
Fava beans are one of the most common legumes eaten in Europe and North America. They are often served as a vegetable side dish, though they are commonly used in soups and stews.
Favas grow in pods containing about 20 seeds each. The seeds are greenish-yellow and taste similar to lima beans, although they are smaller than lima beans.
An often overlooked vegetable, they are staples of many recipes in cuisines across Europe and Asia.
In the Middle East, fava beans are usually prepared as a savory stewed bean dish. In Iran, fava beans are traditionally cooked together with rice.
In Turkey, they are typically added to salads. However, they may also be ground into flour and made into pancakes or fritters.
Like many legumes, dried fava beans are a popular ingredient in the Mediterranean diet.
One of the oldest cultivated legumes in the world, Chickpeas have a history that goes far back.
In the Middle East, where we have the earliest traces of their growth by people, their history with human civilization might go back up to 7,500 years ago.
That’s almost as old as human civilization itself!
Chickpeas to this day are still one of the most popular legumes in the Middle East. They are used in many traditional dishes such as stews, salads, and soups.
Chickpeas grow well in the dry climates of Iran, India, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, Oman, and Israel.
If you thought chickpeas had a long history, then the Lentils are fossils by comparison.
Whilst we know that lentils were probably first grown either in or around the Middle East, Southeast Europe, or South West Asia, we don’t know when they were first cultivated.
All we know is that the growth of these legumes has been going on in human cultures since potentially prehistoric times, which would make it one of the first crops that we ever domesticated!
Throughout history, lentils have played an important role in diets. For example, lentils were used by ancient Egyptians to make bread.
Today, lentils are grown commercially in countries such as Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Spain, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
To this day, lentils are one of the most popular legumes in the world. They are eaten throughout the Mediterranean region and beyond.
Lentil soup is a common dish across the Middle East. There are many different types of lentil dishes in the region. Some of these include lentil pilaf, lentil dahl, and lentil salad.
A staple of most major cuisines across the world, onions are among some of the oldest vegetables.
Like many other ancient vegetables, the exact location of where they were first grown has been lost to the sands and farms of time, but it is widely considered that the
Middle East was one of the first areas that grew this versatile vegetable bulb.
There are three main varieties of onions grown in the Middle East: Egyptian, Syrian, and Lebanese onions.
The most common variety in Egypt is called “Fattoukh,” while in Syria it’s known as “Albab.” Both these varieties are usually yellow.
The third variety found in Lebanon is called “Tahina.” This variety produces large bulbs and is mostly green in color.
Egyptian onions are considered the finest type of onion for eating raw. They have a sweet taste and are quite small, measuring no larger than 1 inch in diameter.
Egyptians use this type of onion primarily in soup recipes; however, they have sometimes been eaten alone as an appetizer.
So, there you have it! Who would have guessed that so many vegetables that we use in so many recipes and cuisines all come from this one region! It’s amazing what our modern-day foods can tell us about the past – even if it takes a couple of thousand years for them to be edible!