Keshta is a local dry fruit from Afghanistan, obtained from the natural dehydration of apricots. This dry fruit has a direct relationship with the traditional culture of local fruit processing of the indigenous/rural communities living in the provinces of Badakhshan, Kapisa, Kandahar, Bulkh, Herat, Maidan Wardak, Ghazni, Kabul and Bamyan. However, the best dried apricots are produced in Kabul, Kandahar and Bulkh.
Usually, this product is made from two varieties of apricots called Zard Alou-e- Qaisy (Qaisy apricot) and Zard Alou-e- Shakarpara (Shakarpara apricot). Keshta is traditionally dried in the sun immediately after harvest, between the second week of June and July, when the temperature is between 35 and 40 degrees.
The apricots are dried for 7-10 days and stored in a suitable place. Today, some processors and dried fruit producers use sulphur combustion to dry the apricots. This is a new method introduced by some international organisations in Kabul and extended to all provinces of the country. Dried apricots have a yellow-orange colour, a sweet and slightly sour taste. This product is somewhat dry and hard, crunchy when placed under the teeth.
Keshta is one of the main foods produced by farmers in the apricot-growing area. Today, local communities use it as a sweet dry fruit in winter with chai or add it to rice dishes. Dried apricots are traditionally used in different forms, as dried fruit, with rice dishes, recipes and soaked dried apricots, locally called Aab Keshta.
Even today, some communities in Herat cook a traditional dish consisting of onion, ghee or vegetable oil, salt and dried apricot, called Keshta-Josh. It is served in winter, especially on snowy days.
Industrial dried apricot producers and younger generations of consumers pay more attention to dried apricots produced from commercial/hybrid varieties that are bronze-coloured and fleshy. In addition, they have a higher economic value. They also prefer dried apricots produced by the burnt sulphur method, although the side effects of this method are still unclear. Dried apricots are produced under organic conditions and processed using traditional methods, so it is necessary for the local community to preserve them as a heritage.