By Christelle Salah Bou-Mitri El Debs
Doctor in Food Science and Agricultural Chemistry, proudly from Hammana and volunteering at the Hima Hammana
Hammana village is rooted in a fertile valley surrounded by cliffs, mountains and irrigated by various water springs, making it an ideal environment to cultivate a wide range of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and cereals.
Cherries are a symbol of identity for Hammana residents. Cherries blossom early April just when the harsh winter fades. Like in Japan, cherry blossoms are highly venerated, and cherry fruits are considered a symbol of renewal, regeneration, purity, prosperity, ephemeral beauty, and evolution. Nutritionally, cherries are superfood rich in antioxidant, with a good source of fiber, vitamins and minerals, including potassium, calcium, vitamin A and folic acid. The color, skin texture and fresh juicy taste are unique to this fruit. The sweetness, tartness and flavors are extremely craved for all year long. Unfortunately, cherry season is very short and cherries are ephemeral. To taste its delicacy throughout the year, locals are continuously looking to preserve it in various ways such as producing jam, syrup, sauce, and alcohol.
Hammana is also known for its delicious beans. Residents have been very knowledgeable in its cultivation and creative in extending its shelf life. Moreover, Hammana offers sunny pasture having nectar and diverse pollen plants essential for the production of unique honey quality.
During the summer and early fall, families benefit from the sunlight and dry season to prepare the “mounet” for the harsh winters. The “mounet” extends from “kishk” (fermented yogurt and bulgur), “awarma” (preserved meat in fat), “Zaatar” (mixed herbs with sesame), grape molasses, jams, dried herbs, raisins and pulses.
Authentic dishes are also well known in this village such as the “mjadarit loubye”(strained cooked beans with rice and onion), “kasa3a” (dried flat green bean with pod, boiled and mixed with lemon juice, olive oil, sumac, garlic and salt). These dishes are mainly consumed during the lent period and more specifically on the Ash Monday and Good Friday.
Food culture is central to Hammanian. Unfortunately, this healthy culinary heritage is disappearing with our elderly generation. Accordingly, there is a high need to conserve the Hammanian collective memory, their knowledge and know-how through the cultivation, preservation, documentation and revival of the traditional food heritage. There is also a dire need to encourage the rural populations, small producers and farmers especially women to produce safe, high quality products and sell it at fair prices.At Hima Hammana and with the help of SPNL, we envision to drive the economic development of the village through the promotion of local food heritage, documentation and revival of the traditional cuisine. At the Hima Farm, we visualize to encourage sustainable bio-farming and promote the livelihood of rural producers and processors through the creation of generation-to-generation linkage where the old generation teaches the know-how while the younger one lead in science, technology and innovation.