‘Akkoob (Gundelia)

dup cleaning akub

He sits by his shop in the Chouf Mountains and steadily and calmly cleans-up ‘akkoob for his customers. I could not help asking him where he goes to  forage it. He told me he and his buddies drive  two hours way up the mountains to the best spot to find it buried in the earth. I said “why don’t you wear gloves? Aren’t you afraid of getting pricked?” (this question got shrugged off). 

What is ‘akkoob? It is a wild plant, similar to artichoke in taste; people in the mountains love to forage it and wax lyrical about its health benefits. It is usually prepared in fritters, or in stews, served with rice on the side. In English, it is called gundelia. I found it in Erbil in Iraq (Kurdistan region) and I was told by Asma it grows in Anatolia near Mardin (Turkey) where she is from (except much bigger there, of course). 

dup Cons buys akkub

how to clean akkub

You may be wondering: Is it worth it? Well, you can certainly buy it already cleaned-up and save hours of labor; or you can do as this man does, and pass the time cutting off its chokes in the street while greeting people and getting entertained by the constant flow of traffic. Village life is not measured in nanoseconds. 

cleaned up and ready

Above the cleaned-up batch is ready to go. 

his pasttime

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  1. Posted May 19, 2014 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    Wow..really interesting! Thank you for sharing..I never heard of it! :)

  2. Raymond
    Posted May 19, 2014 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    Is it the plant that secretly seduced Clooney into submission?

  3. humble_pie
    Posted May 19, 2014 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    fascinating! i especially like the 2nd chair tucked up close & friendly for a visitor.

    Joumama, did you sit down? judging from his changes of clothing, you visited & took pictures across several different days!

    whenever i hear of a herb or a medicinal plant that is new to me, i always look first to see what science has been done on said plant. Here is an abstract of a paper on gundelia from the Journal of Food Chemistry, by university researchers in turkey:


    this suggests that gundelia does indeed have anti-oxidant properties. So do a lot of other plants, but coupled with the reported delicious flavour, one would have to conclude that gundelia is a win/win/winner.

    we don’t have gundelia in north america or even in western europe, but it does look like a strong & robust plant that could possibly be introduced & naturalized.

    another reason for checking out the scientific botanical/pharmaceutical literature is to quickly learn whether a certain plant, or parts of it, has any toxic properties.

  4. humble_pie
    Posted May 19, 2014 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    PS i believe the gentleman is OK with the prickles. See how he’s holding the stem tightly by its prickle-less end. With the other hand he’s scissoring out the edible parts, but the hand holding the scissors doesn’t come into contact with the spines.

    i pick nettles the same way & i never wear gloves. Tightly grasp the outer edge of one top nettle leaf. The plant will not usually sting. With the other hand, cut the stem with long-blade scissors, about 4 pairs of leaves down from the growing tip. Still carrying the snippet gingerly by the edge of its single top leaf, drop it into a large open paper bag. Repeat.

    BTW nettle stings are highly medicinal. Hippocrates recommended a treatment for rheumatism & arthritis which consisted of stripping the patient naked & thrashing him hard with stinging nettle plants. These latter can easily top a metre in height.

    i’ve always thought that such a patient would always pretend to be cured in order to escape a repeat treatment …

  5. Joumana
    Posted May 19, 2014 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

    @humble_pie: Thank you so much for your scholarly input! It compliments perfectly my post which was rather harried I am afraid! :)

  6. Posted May 20, 2014 at 4:42 am | Permalink

    Another vegetable from you I had never heard of!

  7. humble_pie
    Posted May 20, 2014 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    dear Joumama “harried” is not a word that could ever even come to mind when one looks at your graceful, beautifully-illustrated blogspot with all its mouth-watering recipes.

    the pictures of life in the Chouf valley & the anecdotes add so much depth. This is photojournalism at its best.

  8. Joumana
    Posted May 20, 2014 at 6:58 am | Permalink

    @humble_pie: your praise is humbling me! thanks so much :)

  9. Posted May 20, 2014 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    Your stories remind me of being taken from Australia from where I was born to visit family in Lebanon during the year the first war broke out. I love the warmth and your recipes are good. I’ve just set up a blog to complement my work as a private cook in London and realised that while Lebanese restaurants abound in London, it’s all being hijacked by new, modern chains so I’m bringing it all back.

    Thank you for your inspiration.

  10. Posted May 20, 2014 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    Lovely, lovely photos! And a veggie I’ve never heard of before. I miss the artichoke men/sellers we had in Turkey. They’d do the same thing on the streets.

  11. Posted May 23, 2014 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    That is a labor of love. It seems Americans are always in a hurry. My parents weren’t, though. It seems like a by-gone era.

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