Ziba Foods
Better Nutrition|August 2021
These flavorful new products are helping restore Afghanistan’s reputation as a world leader in unique gourmet ingredients.
By Neil Zevnik

Mention Afghanistan today, and it immediately conjures images of danger, destruction, and despair. But there was a time not that many years ago when its beautiful countryside was a major source of exceptional dried fruits and nuts—before conflict and its consequences intervened.

When Patrick Johnson and Raffi Vartanian first visited the country, they experienced the daily ritual of afternoon tea accompanied by a beautiful spread of dried fruits and nuts. “We were blown away by the taste and variety. Listening to our friends and their family speak so proudly of the products that were once considered the best quality in the world, we knew we wanted everyone to enjoy this discovery in the same way we did.”

That, of course, was easier said than done in this strife-riven country. It took several years and many visits to select suitable products (there were 109 varieties of almonds alone), create a sustainable supply chain, and build a factory. Once that was accomplished, Johnson and Vartanian got their artisanal heirloom products in front of some eager, high-end New York chefs, and Ziba Foods was launched.

Deep Roots

Drawing from centuries of agricultural traditions that relied upon both cultivated and wild-foraged fruits and nuts, Johnson and Vartanian were able to source unique offerings such as wild white mulberries and pistachio kernels, tree-dried apricots and sun-dried figs, Parwan walnuts and Kishmish raisins, and Gurbandi almonds.

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