As Local And Organic As Possible. As Sustainable As We Can.”
Interview: Ezgi Genç
Photos: Şener Yılmaz Aslan
What exactly do you do at EK BİÇ YE İÇ?
As our name suggests (which translates as PLANT HARVEST EAT DRINK), we plant and harvest produce in our locations following and respecting the urban farming and permaculture principles. We then use both what we have harvested and also the produce we source from nearby gardens and farms to prepare food and beverages with light touches, and serve them to eat and drink. We also benefit from the experiences of experts in areas we are interested in, as well as what we learn in the process, and share them with our followers through a variety of events and workshops.
What kind of necessities drove you to establish such an entity?
As mega cities continue to grow even bigger they turn into concrete jungles that make it impossible to breathe and live. And as people lose touch with nature, they tend to forget that what they eat is actually the result of a process and labor. If enough people of Istanbul start to question how their food is produced and where it comes from, and to make conscious decisions based on knowledge, we believe that we will not feel caged in a bland, lifeless city. We could say that EK BİÇ YE İÇ was born with the intention of guiding some of the energy we spend on endless consumption toward production. And of course because we want to eat and drink good stuff prepared with produce that is good for our body, environment and future…
We first introduced the EK BİÇ Library during the 2014 Istanbul Design Biennial. And then we opened our venue in Taksim in August 2015. And since May 2016, we have found a space for ourselves in İnsanagüven’s warm house with a green garden in Akatlar. We began offering take away and delivery services with the most sustainable solutions that we could find for packaging and transportation so that we would be able to spread our message and menu options to wider audiences. Meanwhile we also launched projects in public spaces. One of the most exiting projects was transforming the ornamental pond in the Beşiktaş Peace Park into an aquaponic garden during the Beşiktaş Garden and Flower Festival. We have many more ideas, and we are also presented wonderful projects but we need volunteers and aspiring professional to help us accomplish more.
What is a typical day like at EK BİÇ YE İÇ?
We are quite a large team of enthusiasts from various disciplines that unite under the EK BİÇ YE İÇ roof. Even though everyone has an area of expertise/responsibility, all team members can at least cultivate produce in the systems at our location, or work on procuring local and seasonal produce with low carbon footprint. Our day starts with harvesting, and then washing and cleaning the produce. While we serve breakfast, we also prepare the ingredients for the salads and make the soups. The urban farming systems in our lot are continually checked and operated throughout the day. Our guests can observe everything we do as we sow the seeds, grow the seedlings, and feed the fish in our aquaponic system and the quails in the coop. We love it when guests give us a hand.
How do you create the menus?
Our menu features soups, salads, wraps, daily salty and sweet snacks, cold pressed juices, smoothies and herbal teas. Using fairly grown and traded ingredients, local sources as much as we can, and healthy techniques are key considerations we take into account in preparing the menu. We start each week with five new soups, which definitely include vegan/vegetarian options. We also try to make sure that guests who prefer gluten-free eating leave the place feeling full. We take it upon ourselves to serve customers that are conscious about what they put into their body because we believe that we should all become more aware to lead a healthy and good life. In addition to salad and wrap specials, we also offer customers the option of creating their dream salad or wrap with three different greens, nearly 30 other ingredients and 10 salad dressings and sauces. So if someone isn’t happy with his or her combination, it’s not our fault.
Urban farming is gaining popularity. Do you offer workshops on this topic?
Yes, we are very pleased with this level of interest. We believe that everyone can surely grow something in their own conditions, and we conduct workshops to encourage this. The balconies, gardens, rooftops of our homes, and even the basements that don’t get any sunlight (e.g. for mushrooms) can be used to grow something. This is where urban farming methods come in. ‘Composting under the kitchen counter’, ‘windowsill gardens’ that promote the hydroponic systems we use here, and explain simple methods, or making ‘self-irrigating planters’ for children are only some of the topics of our workshops.
In our workshops, we share what we can do to become conscious consumers in an urban setting. Accordingly we launched a new series of workshops on the preparation of fermented food. Most recently, we came together and made pickles in the garden. We also focus on the topics of local production and sustainability in our events. We host talks with inspiring speakers that have made significant progress in sustainable produce and farming against all odds in a metropolis like Istanbul.
You may follow us on Facebook or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to register to our monthly newsletter to stay in the know.
What else would you like to add?
Our event calendar and continually updated menu is on Facebook and Instagram: /ekbicyeic
Order line: 0 212 293 52 42 or 0 212 29 ek bic (easy to remember)
Addresses: Taksim, İnönü Cad. No: 9a 34437 Beyoğlu/ Istanbul (On the left, going down from Taksim Square to Dolmabahçe.)
Akatlar, Sedir Sok. No. 6 34335 Beşiktaş/İstanbul