Kabul (BNA) Ziba Foods imports dried fruits and nuts that will take you on an unexpected journey to Afghanistan.
With a US base in Brooklyn, the company brings in heirloom and rare varieties: mulberries that grow wild in the foothills of the Hindu Kush mountain range that dry on the trees and become crunchy; Kishmish long-shaped, golden raisins made from heirloom grapes from Kandahar; sun-dried figs cultivated in a remote region in the southern part of the country; roasted kernels from the pits of apricots that thrive in Banyan. Heirloom Shakhurbai almonds arrive from central Afghanistan, and wild grown baby pistachios come from the mountainsides in the west. Decades ago, Afghanistan’s sought-after bounty of dried fruits and nuts from small-scale farmers were shipped around the world, but war and economic instability have hindered efforts to keep up with the demand. Ziba (which means beautiful in Farsi) is trying to change this. Cofounded by Kabir Arghandiwal, the business set up a factory in Kabul and buys directly from Afghan farmers and cooperatives and arranges for the distribution. For Arghandiwal, launching the company was personal. He grew up in a village near Kabul and fled alone as a young boy during the Soviet invasion. Arghandiwal says, “Every tea served at home or at relatives’ homes were accompanied by dried fruits. Every village always had a few trees, which produced the dried fruits necessary not only for the villages but also to sell to others. It was an integral part of our diet and also an important foundation of people’s livelihood.” His family eventually settled in San Francisco. Now a businessman with a graduate degree from Tufts’ Fletcher School, Arghandiwal’s intent is to help the family farms sustain a livelihood and rebuild Afghanistan’s place as a leader in supplying high-quality dried fruits and nuts to the world. Chefs around the country are among their best customers. Available at DeLuca’s Market, 239 Newbury St., Boston, 617-262-5990; Allium Market & Café, 1330 Beacon St., Brookline, 617-278-1486; Formaggio Kitchen, 244 Huron Ave., Cambridge; 617-354-4750, or visit zibafoods.com.