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Afyon, Turkey

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Afyon, Turkey

Coordinates: 38 45 N 30 33 E

Elevation: 3,392 feet (1,034 m)

When speaking of edible plants (and their medicinal properties), the opium poppy tends to get a bad rap. Most likely this is because while its harmless leaves, oil, paste, and ripened seeds can be found in various Turkish, Arabian, and Persian dishes, the narcotic properties of unripe poppy seeds have made it a lucrative black market crop in recent decades. The mountainous region surrounding the Turkish town of Afyonkarahisar, or Afyon, grew poppies on a large scale until governmental ban was imposed in the 1970s and farmers were forced to cultivate the sugar beet instead. This regulated production has changed the local food culture and a new monoculture has adversely effected the environment. On an encouraging note, dedicated visitors seeking traditional tastes can still try the famous clotted cream called kaymak with poppy rolls and pastries along Afyon’s narrow streets-even if these baked goods are no longer as commonplace.

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Ben Keene is the editor of Oxford Atlas of the World. Check out some of his previous places of the week.

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