March 10, 2017

Herbs , Culture And Persian New Year

by Marjan


Once again, my family and I are preparing to commence our celebration for Persian New Year with decorative table settings symbolic of distinctive elements of spring. For me personally, it is all about starting a new year blessed with my Persian heritage, health, family, and of course, food! One key decorative element is sprouted barley or lentil which provides a vibrant green centerpiece as it is symbolic of rebirth elements of spring.


Every year, my mother and I gather to bake traditional Persian pastries. The aromas of cardamom, rosewater, butter, and vanilla fill my entire house with delicious home bake goods. If you haven't tried our recipes for Persian New Year sweets, click here and enjoy!


A fundamental traditional meal served for New Years is sabzee polo mahee, literal translation 'herbed rice with fish'. A few years ago, I shared with you my recipe for this popular meal (click here for the recipe). This aromatic, healthy rice recipe reflects the importance of herbs within our culture as it is served on the first day of spring! Fresh herbs such as fenugreek, cilantro, dill, parsley and green onions fragrantly nestled throughout aromatic basmati rice served along side fried fish, truly highlights the importance of herbs as it is the center piece of Persian New Years meal.


Friends often ask me what distinguishes Persian food from other Eastern cuisines. To the best of my knowledge, I believe it is the prominence of utilizing herbs and variety of vegetables and fruits. Most Middle Eastern and Asian countries use spices and fermented sauces. However, my understanding of Persian cuisine relative to it's geographical positioning dating back to the Persian Empire, is it has been blessed with fertile land rendering exotic fruits such as mulberry, quince, persimmons, pomegranates and figs; along with vast variety of herbs such as tarragon, watercress and mint, along with nuts such as pistachios, almonds and walnuts. Even though Persian cuisine incorporates lamb and chicken in most recipes, it is used in moderation and not as the main ingredient.


One of our most popular posts, Fesenjoon, combines using pomegranates and walnuts. Another famous Persian stew uses a variety of herbs, ghormeh sabzee, which literally translates to herb stew. When I observe health relative to diet patterns, I am convinced eating fresh herbs daily is one key component of Persian's healthy routines. We serve a platter of fresh herbs such as mint, scallions, tarragon, basil, watercress and radishes along side all meals. Imagine consuming fresh herbs two to three times a day. Not only is this a healthy pattern, but also medicinal. Who needs to pop vitamins?
The next time you want to invite a Persian friend over for dinner, serve a platter of fresh mixed herbs, along with cheese, raw nuts and bread. A complete meal onto itself, this beautiful and healthy side dish will brighten your table setting. If available, after dinner, have prepared fresh fruit as desert along with fruit marmalade to be enjoyed with tea. Try making your own quince tea, click here for the recipe; if not, prepare Persian tea which is a combination of ceylon, Earl gray, and English breakfast. Place homemade jam or marmalade in small little glass bowls to enrich and flourish an ancient Persian tradition of eating healthy, delicious meals.
May the commencement of this Persian New Year bless our magnificent earth with peace, health, love and joy for all.
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1 comment:

  1. A great article about Persian New Years! I love all the details about your tradition and the thorough list of foods to be enjoyed. We might just have to bring Norouz to Switzerland :-)

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