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Learn to cook with wild herbs in Old Martiros

Learn to cook with wild herbs in Old Martiros image

Photo by My Armenia Program

Just one visit to the Old Martiros guesthouse will yield half a dozen new experiences. You will learn how to cook several distinctive dishes found only in Vayots Dzor, such as buried cheese and a special soup. And you will learn about wild herbs foraged directly from the surrounding hills, which the locals use not only for cooking, but also for medicinal purposes.

You’ll find the guesthouse in its namesake village—so called because the threat of landslides in the 1980s forced the relocation of some residents to “new” Martiros, two kilometers away. However, Gohar and Hamlet Yeghiazaryan have remained in the center of the old village, with their guesthouse—built in 1960, right next to Hamlet’s ancestral home.

Gohar and Hamlet are extremely knowledgeable about local culinary traditions, which they always love to share with their guests. For instance, they will reveal the special ways that villagers use wild herbs from the hills nearby. Gohar is especially passionate about preserving this traditional knowledge and will let you smell and taste your way through her collection of dried herbs and plants, as she describes their properties and uses.

The star of the experience and key ingredient for the soup you’ll prepare is the exceptional karshm, made from a dried wild herb that grows only in Vayots Dzor. During karshm harvest in May and June, you may even help braid the stems. Whatever the season, the herbs blend beautifully with the soup’s other ingredients of lentils, bulgur wheat, ground walnuts, minced garlic, and dried lavash. Together with Gohar, you will concoct your own karshm soup by combining a diverse array of herbs into the broth for a delicious and hearty meal.

While the soup is cooking, Gohar and Hamlet will show you how to prepare buried cheese, an unusual treat that is special to Martiros. First, the cheese is crushed and seasoned with various herbs. With Gohar and Hamlet’s help, you’ll fill your clay pot to the top with the cheese mixture. Then you’ll turn the pots upside down and bury them underground where they’ll age for five months. But don’t worry! Your hosts will have plenty of cheese they’ve already made just for you, so please indulge while your soup simmers on the stove.

Eating karshm is a special occasion to which locals invite their relatives and friends. People travel not only from the village and the region, but also all the way from the capital of Yerevan for this famous local delicacy.

Meet your hosts

Meet Hamlet and Gohar, a married couple from old Martiros, who opened their guesthouse to show off the natural and historic charms of the village and region they have always loved. Although Hamlet moved temporarily to the city of Vayk for work, he returned to give new life to his ancestral home with the creation of the guesthouse. With her extensive knowledge of local herbs, Gohar joined her husband to preserve the culinary traditions of Martiros. Together they share a passion for telling the history and culture of the Armenian people who settled here more than 700 years ago. Come join Hamlet and Gohar to learn how to use some of the local herbs and plants for both cooking and health.

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