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The traditional food of the Yezidis and Kurds of Armenia has some particularities and differences compared with the traditional cuisine of Armenians.
Ethnobotanical data collected during fieldworks in 2013–2015 in Armenia via interviews, direct observations and sampling of used plants for identification of species.
Traditional dishes of Yezidis and Kurds are simple. They are mostly made from or contain as a main component lamb and milk products (sometimes beef and chicken, but never pork). The main vegetal components of their traditional food are represented by cultivated cereals, grains, and herbs of wild plants. Edible plants gathered from the wild are used primarily for nutritional purposes, for flavoring prepared meals and milk products, and for tea.
We correlate these distinctions with the transhumant pastoral lifestyle of the Yezidi and Kurdish people.
- edible plants;
The largest ethnic minority of Armenia is Kurmanji (a language of northern Kurds) speaking people who confess Yezidism (or Sharfadin) , ,  and . The majority of these people call themselves Yezidi and believe that Yezidi is an ethnic group, while some of them call themselves Kurds and argue that Yezidism is just a religion1. In Armenia, Yezidis live mainly in the region of Mount Aragats and in the Ararat Valley, a territory which falls into four administrative regions (marzes in Armenian): Aragatsotn, Armavir, Ararat, and Kotayk 2. Yezidis of Armenia, primarily descendants of refugees from the eastern parts of the Ottoman Empire, keep their memories about forced migration with their Armenian fellow villagers in the first quarter of the 20th century in the oral traditions through family stories. The lesser part of this population, mostly living in the foothills and highland plains of the northern part of Mount Aragats (territories administratively included in the Aragats and Talin regions of Aragatsotn marz), are descendants of earlier migrants who came there in several waves throughout the last 2 centuries  and .
Yezidis and Kurds of Armenia are typically settled in rural or suburban areas, which are largely preconditioned by their economic activity ,  and . Until recent decades the main occupation of Yezidis and Kurds in Armenia was sheep breeding ; other forms of agriculture including plant breeding were small scale and not obligatory . Present public opinion as well as professional and media circles see Yezidis as “nomadic pastoralists”, devoid of any relation with plants. However, the ethnobotanical studies carried out in 2013–2015 suggest that the aforementioned opinion is rather a stereotype. Currently, many Yezidi families, primarily those living in the Ararat Valley, do not practice animal breeding or do it on a small scale. Regarding plant gathering, in fact, Yezidis and Kurds can be characterized by distinct gathering traditions along with associated culinary and folk medicine practices.
2. Materials and methods
This is documentative and descriptive work predominately aimed at uncovering the vegetal component of Armenian Yezidi and Kurdish people's traditional food, which has remained generally in the shadows in scientific literature until now.
The primary data of the current study—information about traditional food—was collected via direct observations and oral histories recorded in interviews in more than 40 villages and approximately 20 high mountainous temporary pastoral stations (Fig. 1). Yezidi villages, Kurdish villages, and villages with mixed populations (with Armenians) were investigated: Banavan, Nor Geghi, Arzni, Mayakovskiy, Balahovit, Zovuni, Kanakeravan (Kotayk marz), Ranchpar, Noramarg, Mkhchyan, Verin Artashat, Berdik, Mrganush, Getazat (Ararat marz), Ferik, Aknalich, Aratashen, Aknashen, Tandzut, Zartonk (Ghamshlu), Yeghegnut (Badal), Jrarat, Shenik, Myasnikyan (Armavir marz), Tlik, Arevut (Barozh), Ddmasar (Ghapaghtapa), Sorik, Hatsashen (Sabunchi), Metsadzor (Avtola), Kanch (Gyalto), Hakko, Shamiram, Oshakan, Mirak, Rya Taza, Charchakis (Derek), Alagyaz, Shenkani, Jamshlu, Sipan, Avshen, Mijnatun (Ortachia), Sadunts, Kaniashir (Aragatsotn marz), as well as high mountainous temporary pastoral stations of Mount Aragats, Mount Ajdahak, and surroundings of Sevaberd, Hankavan, and Jermuk ( Fig. 1).
We used a semiquantitative method to describe types of gathered plants used for particular goals (Table 1). Plants gathered and used for dietary purposes were sampled and later identified  and stored (selected samples) in the herbarium of the Institute of Botany NAS, Armenia.
Usage purposes and preparation
Names used by Yezidis & Kurds English names Scientific Latin binomial names Family Boiled, nutritional Soup, nutritional Soup, flavoring “Grar”, nutritional “Grar”, flavoring Cooked, other, nutritional Fresh/salad, nutritional & flavoring Pickled, nutritional & flavoring Cheese and curd flavoring and decorating Tea Medicine Leaves and other green parts of the plant Flowers Roots, bulbs, and other underground parts Home-yards, surroundings of houses, temporary stations, and villages Crops fields Previously grazed areas Corral for livestock Other human and livestock affected areas Natural econiches with minimal human impact Tǝrsho Curly dock Rumex crispus L. Polygonaceae 1 1 – 2 – 3 3 – – – 4 1 – – 1 1 3 2 2 3 Gyazgyazk Stinging nettle Urtica dioica L. Urticaceae 3 1 – 3 – – 2 – – – 4 1 – – 1 2 2 2 1 3 Tolǝk Mallow Malva neglecta Wallr., M. pusilla Smith Malvaceae 2 1 – 2 – – – – – – 3 1 – – 1 1 3 2 1 3 Nanjujǝk Common knotgrass Polygonum arenastrum Boreau Polygonaceae 1 3 – 3 – – 3 4 2 – 4 1 – – 2 3 2 2 1 2 Sǝpǝng Goatsbeard Tragopogon spp. Asteraceae 1 2 – 3 – – 1 – – – – 1 2 2 1 – – 2 1 Mandǝk Astrodaucus Astrodaucus orientalis (L.) Drude, Chaerophyllum spp., Anthriscus nemorosa (Bieb.) Spreng. Apiaceae 1 – – 2 – – – 1 3 – – 1 – – – 1 – – 3 2 Ghǝmi, mandǝk Chervil Chaerophyllum spp.: Ch. bulbosum L. Apiaceae 1 – – 2 – – – 1 3 – – 1 – – – 1 – – 3 2 Pekhask Sickleweed Falcaria vulgaris Bernh Apiaceae 1 2 – 2 – – 3 2 – – – 1 – – – 1 – – 2 3 Sarzar – Chamaesciadium acaule (Bieb.) Boiss.∗ Apiaceae 3 3 – 1 – – 2 – 1 – – 1 1 – – – 1 – – 1 Sǝlmask Goosefoot Chenopodium spp.: Ch. album L., Ch. sosnovskyi Kapell.∗ Chenopodiaceae 1 2 – 2 – – – – – – – 1 – – 1 1 – 1 1 – Sǝlkok Amaranth Amaranthus spp.: A. retroflexus L. Amaranthaceae 1 2 – 2 – – – – – – – 1 – – 1 1 – 1 1 – Siptǝkuk Star-of-Bethlehem, bluebells Ornithogalum transcaucasicum Miscz. ex Grossh.∗, Muscari sosnowskyi Schchian∗ Liliaceae 1 2 – 2 – – – – – – – 1 – – – – 1 – – 1 Alagyaz – Puschkinia scilloides Adam. Hyacinthaceae 1 2 – – – – – – – – – 1 – – – – 1 – – 1 Nanchǝvik Shepherd's-purse Capsella bursa-pastoris (L.) Medik. Brassicaceae 1 2 – 2 – – 1 – – – – 1 – – 1 2 2 2 1 – Tǝvratoushk Hill mustard, wild mustard Bunias orientalis L., Sinapis arvensis L. Brassicaceae 1 2 – – – – 1 – – – – – – – 1 1 – – 2 – Raske ruvi Wild spinach Spinacia oleracea L., Chenopodium foliosum Aschers. Chenopodiaceae 1 2 – 2 – – – – – – – 1 – – – 2 – 1 2 – So Hogweed Heracleum trachyloma Fisch. & C.A.Mey. Apiaceae 2 – – – – – 3 1 – – – 1 – – – – – – 2 1 Zhakh – Cachrys microcarpa M. Bieb. Apiaceae – – – – – – – 1 – – – 1 – – – – – – 2 1 Sirmi Wild garlic (generally) Allium spp.: A. vineale L.∗, A. schoenoprasum L., A. pseudostrictum Albov†, A. sativum L. Alliaceae – – – – 3 – 2 – 1 – – 1 3 2 3 – 3 – – 1 Kolirka panir, javrashk Buttercup Ranunculus spp.: R. oreophilus Bieb.∗, R. brachylobus Boiss. et Hohen.∗, R. repens L. Ranunculaceae – – – – – – – – 1 – 2 – 1 – – – – – – 1 Poung Mint Mentha spp.: M. longifolia (L.) Huds. Lamiaceae – – – – 1 – 2 – – 1 1 1 2 – – – – – 2 1 Jantri Thyme Thymus spp.: Th. kotchyanus Boiss. & Hohen, Th. collinus M. Bieb., Th. eriophorus Ronn.∗, Th. fedtschenkoi Ronn.∗, Th. rariflorus K. Koch, Th. transcaucasicus Ronn. Lamiaceae – – 3 – 3 – – – 2 1 1 1 2 – – – – – – 1 Ramashka Chamomile Anthemis cotula L.*, Tripleurospermum parviflorum (Willd.) Pobed.∗, Tripleurospermum spp. and other species of Anthemideae Cass. tribe Asteraceae – – – – 3 – – – – 2 1 2 1 – – – – – – 1 Zveraboy Saint John's wort Hypericum spp.: H. perforatum L., H. linarioides Bosse∗ Hypericaceae – – – – – – – – – 2 1 2 1 – – – – – – 1 Pijok Edible field thistle Cirsium esculentum (Siev.) C.A. Mey.∗ Asteraceae – – – – – – 1 – – – – – – 1 – – – – – 1 Tik, Tǝrsho Hen and chicks, stonecrops Sempervivum transcaucasicum Muirhead, Sedum caucasicum (Grossh.) Boriss. Crassulaceae – – – – – – 1 – – – – 1 – – – – – – – 1 Pejak Alpine dock Rumex alpinus Jacq. Polygonaceae – – – – – 2 1 – – – – 1 – – – – – – – 1 Tǝrsho Mountain dock Rumex alpestris Jacq.†, R. acetosella Z. Polygonaceae – – – – – – 1 – – – 2 1 – – – – – – – 1 Lelavk/Lavlavk Field bindweed Convolvulus arvensis L.∗ Convolvulaceae – – – 1 – – 2 – – – – 1 2 – 1 2 – – 2 –
- Rarely or superficially mentioned in literature , , , , , , , , , ,  and , etc.].
- Recorded as used plant for the first time.
3. Results and discussion
Although for many Yezidis and Kurds animal breeding is no longer a primary occupation in Armenia3, animal products and food prepared using meat and milk products are still most preferred and in higher demand4. Local Yezidis and Kurds from older generations often refer to the taste of cooked meat when they want to qualify other dishes. We connect these strong connections with animal food products with sheep breeding and the transhumant pastoral lifestyle which predominated among Yezidis and Kurds in Armenia .
Due to a seminomadic pastoral economy plant cultivation among the Yezidis and the Kurds was not diverse until recent decades and was often limited to the cultivation of cereals to satisfy only family needs ,  and . Consequently the majority of traditional dishes prepared using cultivated plants are based on cereals . Presently the plant cultivation practices of this “sun-worshipping” people closely replicate those of the Christians living in the same region, specifically the Armenians, and their food is very similar ,  and . There are a few peculiarities in the traditional food of the Yezidis that stem from their beliefs and caste system (avoiding pork, cabbage, and some other products, see below) but these are not widespread.
According to our observations and interviews as well as notes in some publications ,  and , traditional dishes prepared and preferred by Yezidis and Kurds in Armenia can be grouped by main components and according to preference: meat, milk products, cereals/grains, and herbs. When grouped according to use, these foods are (from most used to least used): cereal products, milk products, herbs (depends from the season), and meat. Usually dishes are made from a combination of two or more components. Vegetable components are traditionally represented by cereals and wild herbs, occasionally adding grain pulses, and in recent years vegetables and fruit. Traditional vegetal components of food often serve as a secondary component or as a condiment/flavoring for meats (vegetal dressings) or milk-based dishes and other food (yogurt soup, cheese, curt, etc.). However, there are also pure vegetal dishes (e.g., various versions of porridges or boiled herbs) or dishes where the animal component is secondary (e.g., meat in the porridges) or tertiary (e.g., butter in the porridges).
The general dishes considered as traditional for Yezidis and Kurds in Armenia that are prepared using vegetal components include breads (nan in Kurmanji), various cooked herbs ( Fig. 2) and herbal soups, gǝrar (Kurmanji name; a sour yogurt soup; Fig. 3 and Fig. 4), kǝrchik (Armenian name; a porridge; Fig. 5), harisa (Armenian name; meat porridge), khavits (Armenian name, roasted flour with sugar and butter), qyalagosh (Turkish name; meat porridge with cereals, pulses, herbs, etc.), rǝshte (probably a Kurmanji name; type of flat macaroni), etc. 5. The main vegetal components in these traditional dishes are cereals and herbs, and occasionally also beans. For the remainder of this article we will concentrate on the vegetal food products or components which are not published or poorly observed, and which therefore are unknown to the scientific community.
The main cereal used in Yezidi and Kurdish dishes is bread wheat (Triticum aestivum L. s.l.). Rice (Oryza spp.) takes second place due to its scale of use in traditional cuisine. Other cereals such as barley (Hordeum vulgare L.; widely used in the past), durum wheat (Triticum durum), rye (Secale spp.), and corn (Zea mayis) are rarely used, especially in the present day. Notably, emmer wheat was neither observed to be used nor mentioned by Yezidis and Kurds during our interviews 6.
Cereals, particularly bread wheat grain processed in a different ways, is the main component of traditional vegetal dishes of Yezidis and Kurds in Armenia. It is also the main cereal used for bread baking (as in most parts of the world). Bread wheat is cooked in different ways starting from a simple porridge with nothing added except salt to “fancy” porridges including meat (e.g., harisa) or various herbs and adding butter (e.g., kǝrchik) and salt. Elderly people attest that “in bad times” barley replaced wheat in these dishes and for bread baking.
Wild plants gathered and used in food by the Yezidis and Kurds of Armenia are more diverse and have a more varied usage7. Contrary to plant cultivation, which might have been small scale or even absent for some periods for the majority of Yezidis and Kurds until recently, gathering has been a traditional and essential aspect of these people's livelihood. In his ethnographic study of Kurds (including Yezidis) carried out in the second half of 19th century, Egiazarov  wrote: “It is barely possible that any other people use in their food as many herbs as Kurds do.”
Edible plants gathered and used by the Yezidis and Kurds in Armenia fall into the following categories according to their main purposes of use8: nutritional [e.g., Rumex crispus ( Fig. 6 and Fig. 7), Malva neglecta, Chenopodium spp., Amaranthus spp. ( Fig. 2), Spinacia oleracea, Tragopogon spp., Falcaria vulgaris ( Fig. 8), Polygonum arenastrum ( Fig. 5), etc.]; flavoring [e.g., Thymus spp. ( Fig. 8), Mentha spp., Allium spp. ( Fig. 9 and Fig. 10)]; fresh/salad (e.g., Cirsium esculentum, Sempervivum transcaucasicum, Tragopogon spp.); pickles [Chaerophyllum spp., Astrodaucus spp. ( Fig. 7), Falcaria vulgaris ( Fig. 8), etc.]; cheese and curd flavoring and decorating [Allium spp. ( Fig. 9 and Fig. 10), Chamaesciadium acaule, Thymus spp. ( Fig. 8), Polygonum arenastrum ( Fig. 11), Ranunculus spp. ( Fig. 10), etc.]; tea (e.g., Hypericum perforatum, Mentha longifolia, Thymus spp., Plantago major, Matricaria spp.; Table 1). In addition, various edible berries are gathered and consumed for nutritional purposes: rosehip (Rosa spp.); plums (Prunus spp.); cherries [i.e., Prunus incana (Pall.) Batsch]; hawthorn (Crataegus spp.); and berries from genus Rubus, etc.
This vegetal “raw material” is usually gathered by aged and experienced women or groups of young women, girls, and children usually led by an elderly woman. Sometimes shepherds (men, teenagers, or boys) are also engaged in gathering of plants, which are not available at that time in the surrounds of villages or mountainous stations. The preferable location for edible plant gathering is in the mountains, in the vicinity of zozan-s or oba-s (temporary camps, usually a group of tents, used to live during pasturing periods in the mountains). In general, areas of plant gathering mostly cover middle mountainous (villages, stationary settlements; 1,000/1,200–2,000 m above sea level) and high mountainous areas (temporary livestock stations), > 2,000 m up to 3,400 m above sea level. In the lowlands and particularly in the Ararat Valley, Yezidi people, chiefly those who are engaged in animal husbandry and move to mountain pastures in the hot season, do not tend to practice gathering because they believe the lowland plants lack nutritive, flavoring, and medicinal qualities. Plants gathered and used for food are generally ruderal and segetal weeds related with human activity, particularly animal herding and agriculture.
Regarding the utilized parts of gathered plants, leaves and other overground/aerial parts are mostly used (Fig. 2, Fig. 4, Fig. 6, Fig. 7, Fig. 9 and Fig. 11), however, flowers (e.g., Fig. 10), roots, bulbs, and other underground parts are used as well (Table 1). Gathered herbs are washed and chopped prior to cooking. Informants always note that plants growing in the mountains and in lowlands have different qualities: the ones gathered in the mountains are more lush, juicy, and sweet compared with the same species growing in lowlands. In particular, plants growing around settlements are said to be smaller, dry, hard and, most importantly, bitter, which is why they are not preferred for use in food.
Some wild edible herbs can be eaten in their raw state, immediately in the field, or as salads. However, more often wild herbs are cooked (Fig. 2, Fig. 3, Fig. 4 and Fig. 5). Methods of preparing wild herbs gathered and used for nutritional purposes are varied. Usually the herbs are boiled in water, then the water is filtered and butter or vegetable oil is added to the boiled herbs (they can also be dry cooked without water); salt as preferred. Onion or eggs can also be added (Fig. 2). Wild edible herbs are often prepared with cereals such as porridge, called kǝrchik ( Fig. 5; Armenians, Yezidis, and Kurds use the same name for this porridge). Usually, curly dock (Rumex crispus; tǝrsho in Kurmanji) or common knotgrass (Polygonum aviculare; nanjoujǝk in Kurmanji) are used in this kǝrchik-porridge. The second most common way to prepare nutritional edible plants is by making various soups from them. Usually, potato and/or small balls made from fragmented bread wheat can be added to such soups. The Yezidis and Kurds of Armenia have a special version of yogurt soup, called gǝrar in Kurmanji, which is currently extremely rare amongst Armenians and other nationalities of Armenia. The main difference of this yogurt soup from the variants prepared by Armenians or by Assyrians today is that various wild herbs are added both for nutritive and flavoring purposes ( Table 1; Fig. 3 and Fig. 4). Plants gathered to use for food or for flavoring are dried and stored in bags ( Fig. 6 and Fig. 7), salted (e.g., the wild onion; Fig. 9), or pickled (Fig. 8) for transportation (especially if gathered in mountains) and for preservation for wintertime use. Sometimes the same herbs used in a fresh state or cooked are used to prepare pickles as well (Fig. 8), but there are edible herbs almost exclusively used in a pickled state (e.g., “so”: hogweed, Heracleum trachyloma; “zhakh”: Cachrys microcarpa; Table 1). The primary goal of pickling is to conserve and store the herbs for later and wintertime use, but people often use them immediately, in salads.
Wild herbs used for flavoring purposes are widely utilized amongst the Yezidis and Kurds of Armenia. They are added to soups (including gǝrar: the yogurt soup), porridges, or other dishes. In terms of frequency and scale, the most commonly used herbs are mint (pung) and thyme (jantri), both used for flavoring. Adding flavoring herbs to food is common also for Armenians.
Wild herbs also are used by the Yezidis and Kurds to flavor cheese (Fig. 8 and Fig. 10)9 and curd (Fig. 11). In general, practically all Yezidis and Kurds engaged in animal breeding and production of milk products use wild herbs to flavor cheese and curd, while not many Armenians do so. The main flavoring used by the Yezidis and Kurds for cheese is sirmi (wild garlic; Fig. 8 and Fig. 10); certain species of Allium genus are used ( Table 1). Although the usage of wild garlic in cheese and curd is explained as flavoring, we propose that it plays a secondary role as a suppressant of the pathogenic microflora that can grow in these products. Yellow flower petals of several buttercup species (Ranunculus spp.; Table 1) are gathered by some Yezidis and Kurds of Armenia to use in cheese for flavoring, coloring, and also simply for decoration (Fig. 10). We have not recorded this use of buttercup amongst other ethnic groups of Armenia. As the Yezidis and Kurds mentioned during interviews, this practice of using buttercup petals in cheese was more common in the past and few people use them currently.
During the past few decades (and maybe in earlier times as well) coffee is by far the most preferred hot drink for the Yezidis and Kurds of Armenia but, according to interviews, teas with various wild herbs are still widely in use. This refers especially to those herbs which have general curative and refreshing features (as characterized by the informants) such as thyme, mint, chamomile, and hypericum10 (Table 1).
Armenians and other ethnic groups in the region have also practiced the gathering of various wild plants and still do it in varying scales and forms , , , ,  and . However, the essential scale of gathering and use of wild plants in food, especially in milk products, by Kurds (and Yezidis) was notable since the end of the 19th century  and .
It is noteworthy that the Yezidis are so closely linked to the useful wild plants growing in mountainous areas that they sometimes even carry them over to their farmyards, where they plant and cultivate them. Mostly mint and curly dock were observed to have been gathered from wild contexts and cultivated in yards.
The “plants of the mountains” are also among the “migrating food” assemblage of Armenia. The Yezidis and Kurds send packages of wild plants to their relatives living abroad (recent migrants living in Russia, Germany, France, Austria, The Netherlands, Belgium, and other countries).
3.1. Yezidi food taboos
There are some food products that are forbidden for the Yezidis due to certain religious rules, prejudices, or folk customs. These restrictions have an effect on the Yezidis traditional food menu and agriculture. It is written in the Yezidi holy Black Book (some informants refer this as the Black Bible) that lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.), common bean (Phaseolus spp.), pumpkins (Cucurbita pepo L.), bamia (okra or “lady's fingers”, Abelmoschus esculentus (L.) Moench), cabbage (Brassica oleracea var. capitata L.), as well as the meats of fish, deer, and rooster are forbidden for Yezidis. Particularly in the case of lettuce, it is written that the Yezidis should not even live in the places where lettuce is cultivated . This list of taboo food products is not fully known amongst Armenian Yezidis. For example, Aristova  notes that the pig (pork) and cabbage are strictly forbidden (haram 11) for Yezidis, but other food products from the above list are not mentioned. During our fieldwork we encountered a similar situation, in that the only conventionally constant food taboos were pork and cabbage; extremely few Yezidis ever heard about forbidden foods other than pork and cabbage and were using even those upon availability. Although practically all Yezidis say that the pig and cabbage12 are strictly forbidden for them, some Yezidis, especially murids13 ignore this religious rule and eat pork and cabbage. It worth mentioning that the Yezidis are generally more strict about the use of pork and pork-containing products (e.g., sausage) than they are in the case of cabbage. The degree of food strictness depends on caste ascription and the degree of religiosity of a given family: we observed various cases, which have virtually equal occurrences. In some cases pork, cabbage, and even plants resembling or related to cabbage, such as cauliflower (B. oleracea var. botrytis L.) and lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.), are strictly forbidden for the family and it is considered a sin even to bring those plants into the yard 14 or to touch them or pork/pigs. In some other cases Yezidis are less strict about cabbage and other taboo plants; they deal with it outside of their homes, and sometimes even cultivate it in their yards to sell in the market, but they do not eat it. And finally, there are families which freely cultivate cabbage and lettuce and use it for everyday meals, but refrain from eating it during religious celebrations such as weddings, funerals, etc. (as in the case when Christians do not use meat during Easter). These informants, exclusively murids, said that the cabbage is forbidden only for religious castes, pirs, and sheikhs, but murids are allowed to use it. Some of the informants mentioned that the common bean is also forbidden for Yezidis, but did not explain or relate the history of such a taboo. Some informants said that cannabis (Cannabis sativa L.) is forbidden for Yezidis, because it has narcotic features. Some others consider the sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.) as a forbidden plant, because one spits the peels when eating the seeds. However, these stories about lettuce, beans, hemp, and sunflower being forbidden for Yezidis are episodic cases; most of our informants never heard about any forbidden plants other than cabbage, consider these stories funny, and relate examples of using such apparently forbidden plants.
As might be expected, these religious restrictions also affect the agricultural practice of the Yezidis. We have not seen any Yezidi family keeping pigs and few families (proportionally compared with Armenians) cultivate cabbage and other forbidden plants. Regarding traditional cuisine, meat-based dishes primarily contain lamb and mutton (meat of sheep of various ages), to a lesser degree beef or chicken, and never pork. In the regionally traditional dishes and food where cabbage is used (e.g., tolma/dolma 15, kǝrchik, pickles, etc.) Yezidis replaced cabbage with other, usually wild, plants ( Table 1). For example, the leaves of the grape when available, or leaves of wild plants in the mountains such Rumex alpestris and Rumex alpestre are used to roll tolma by religious Yezidis or during the period of religious celebrations. In the case of kǝrchik, Yezidis use mostly knotgrass (Polygonum aviculare), while Armenians often use cabbage. Regarding pickles in Armenia, presently cabbage is the main component of pickle for Armenians and Russians, while Yezidis prefer wild gathered plants ( Table 1) or just other vegetables.
Summarizing the results of our research we can attest that traditional Yezidi and Kurdish cuisine is rather simple. The majority of traditional dishes are based on animal products (meat, milk, yogurt, cheese, curd, etc.) and cereals (mostly bread wheat). However, there are also many dishes based on edible wild plants, which were not known to the scientific community and have not been previously highlighted. The main components of Yezidi and Kurdish traditional dishes in Armenia—meat, milk, yogurt, cheese, curt, cereals, and wild herbs—show the primary foci of their traditional agrarian economy and livelihood. The main occupation of the Yezidis and Kurds living in Armenia has been, and for the majority still is, sheep herding. To satisfy nutritional needs for vegetal material and hydrocarbonates in general, transhumant Yezidis and Kurds had to engage in barter or trade, or at least practice cereal-based agriculture. According to oral history and current practice, intensive plant gathering has “always” been part of these people's household economy and is considered by them as something a priori. Traditional foods with vegetal components, which are still cooked in villages by Yezidis and Kurds, and the methods of preparation of certain food products (yogurt soup, cheese, curd, etc.) using vegetal components serve as cultural metaphors for these people and can be considered as part of their identity.
Contrary to stereotypes persisting in Armenian and Russian societies and even in the Yezidi community itself, we observed that animal husbandry is not the only way for Yezidis to produce food products. Yezidis practice agriculture and prepare traditional dishes based on diverse vegetal material. Dishes prepared using cultivated plants generally repeat the forms of Armenian variants (as occurs with Georgian Yezidis and Georgian variants). Meanwhile, traditional Yezidi dishes prepared using plants gathered from the wild are often original and only partly overlap with Armenian traditional dishes.
Conflicts of interest
All contributing authors declare no conflicts of interest.
This study is supported by the State Committee of Science MES RA, within the framework of the research project Number: SCS 13-6F457. The authors would like to thank Dr Tork Dalalyan for valuable comments, Dr Kathryn Franklin for providing revisions of the English text, and all our informants for their hospitality.
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