Uzbek Crops from Oregon Farms

by Nathan Hamm on 1/25/2006 · 11 comments

Silverton, Oregon’s local paper has a story on Jim Gilbert’s agricultural exchanges with Uzbekistan. (And that’s just cake because I’ll take any opportunity I can to mention the most wonderful state in the union on this blog.) Gilbert is the owner of One Green World, a nursery that specializes in “unique fruits and ornamentals from around the world.” Gilbert says,

My goal in doing the work that I do is to find new crops for Oregon farmers and find value in more products.

He made two trips to Uzbekistan last year with Winrock International, working with Uzbek farmers to diversify crops grown for local consumption. Specifically, he taught kiwi cultivation, which I could see being a useful way for enterprising locals to empty the pockets of expats. Seeing as there were times I would have paid a hefty sum to get my hands on broccoli, kiwis would have tempted me to part with stacks of so’m.

Gilbert hopes to bring back crops from Uzbekistan for production by Oregon farmers. Specifically, he thinks the pistachios, mulberries, and hardy pomegranates found in Uzbekistan would all grow well in Oregon. He also wants to bring over the Uzbek quince, which he says is far superior to other, more common varieties.

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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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Disha January 26, 2006 at 1:15 am

Hmm. Kiwis are available in KZ. So is broccoli. Is the bazar/grocery store situation in UZ that much different?

Nathan January 26, 2006 at 1:18 am

This was four years ago. Bananas were a special treat at the time. I’m sure it would have been possible but difficult to find kiwis. And rumor had it that broccoli was grown near Samarkand for hotels. I don’t know what it’s like now, but I imagine plenty of things that are normal to westerners are pretty rare.

Jonathan P January 26, 2006 at 6:26 am

Broccoli was periodically available at Alaiski bazaar (the expensive one in the center of Tashkent) the last time I was there (’03). Kiwi was too. But I never found the stuff elsewhere.

Bananas had become rather common by then. Of course, Nathan, Navoi is a different story. It’s hard to even find a decent bowl of osh in that town (tho the shashlik is pretty darn good in places … there was a place kind-of accross the street from the avia kassa that had fantastic shashlik).

As an interesting side note: I met a young man in Tashkent who claimed his father grew iceberg lettuce (or something akin to it) exclusively for export. He claimed it was used in restaurants in Russia. I could never verify this, and I certainly never saw the stuff for sale in the bazaar.

Nathan January 26, 2006 at 7:56 am

I lived right next to the place I think you’re talking about. I ate there all the time.

Sara January 26, 2006 at 8:19 am

Kiwi was 200 soum a pop in Tashkent at all the bazars. Bananas 300-500 depending on the quality.

I never found broccoli, not even at the Alaski Bazar. But cauliflower works just as well.

Curt January 26, 2006 at 9:48 am

Oregon rules, California drools. (I’ve made my point AND retained my dignity.)

Michael Hancock January 26, 2006 at 10:28 am

Southern Kazakhstan, for all intents and purposes, seems to be a continuation of many things Uzbekistan. To that note, I’ll say I’ve never seen broccoli here, though I’m told it can be bought for a price if you’re in-the-know, and that it’s not too hard, closer to Siberia and the more Russified portions of the Kay-Zed. Cauliflower does get the job done, if you’re in a pinch, but does anyone know why it’s called “Light Cabbage” in Russian? I guess they must be distant relatives in the plant kingdom, but I don’t see it.

Regarding the original article, if that guy grows terp in Oregon, I’m moving there. You know, those green radish-tasting things? I can’t get enough of them, to be honest. Almost makes up for the iceberg lettuce sized hole in my stomach.

Somebody eat a chef’s salad for me, ok?

Peace out from South Kazakstan Oblast –

Jonathan P January 26, 2006 at 12:36 pm

Yeah, I forgot about those green radishy things! Man, there was this one osh-hona in Tashkent where they put slivers of that stuff on the osh… It was awesome!

Nathan, wasn’t it called Fauna or something like that? I can’t remember exactly.

Laurence January 26, 2006 at 1:41 pm

Nathan, Great story. Winrock had a good farmer’s program. I bought broccoli in Aleisky Bazaar, but only once in a while…

uzari January 27, 2006 at 2:28 pm

I did a near weekly search for broccoli at Alayskiy – I could find it about 1 out of 3 trips, but that was often because I couldn’t get to the bazaar earlier than 2 or 3 in the afternoon…

Other morsels available at Alayskiy
– Coconuts – 1000 sum/piece
– Mangoes – 2000 sum/piece
– Avacadoes – 4000 sum/piece

You could also get out-of-season cherries and strawberries, and the like, packaged from Dubai for crazy prices. I assume these were purchased mainly by clubs for their mandatory ‘fruktoviy assorti’ with the $20 table.

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