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It’s not a candle… or a sausage — it’s a superfood

They look like knobbly sausages hanging along the rural roadsides and in the food markets of Georgia, except their skins are a bright, shiny, deep red.

They look like candles, except their pointed ends have no wick.

This is churchkhela, a sort of wholefood candy, made mainly from nuts and grape must — an intense stew of the crushed fruit. Usually 25 walnut halves are threaded together and dipped in the thickened grape juice, which has been heated and stirred to a thick, creamy, stick consistency. In some areas almonds and hazelnuts are used.

I buy one on the roadside, cut a first piece a couple of centimetres long. It is dense, not overly sweet (sugar isn’t added) and incredibly filling. Two pieces and I feel completely full, as if I’ve had a three-course meal.

Churchkhela is a very efficient, high-energy food and that takes us into the cultural roots of Georgian food.

Churchkhela in Telavi, Georgia.
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Churchkhela in Telavi, Georgia.Picture: Stephen Scourfield/The West Australian

GEORGIA ON MY MIND

Other memorable food and drink in Georgia:

Khachapuri — Georgian bread, cottage cheese and egg, a sort of early pizza.

Shoti or shota — Armenian bread, bought fresh on the roadside.

Breakfast olives — in a thick, sweet syrup.

Soko ketsze — mushrooms and cheese. Georgians love mushrooms and grow many varieties.

Georgian cheeses — especially sulguni, and imeretian from the Imereti region, which is a popular curd cheese made from cows’ milk.

Turkish coffee — smooth, rich, not bitter, more like chocolate.

Georgian sparkling water — comes out of the ground effervescent in some places. Georgia has more than 2000 mineral water springs.

Fresh fruit — cherries are well under $10 for a big bucketful.

Georgian cheeses served at a cafe in Signagi. The cheeses are Imereti and Imeretian (with the holes).
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Georgian cheeses served at a cafe in Signagi. The cheeses are Imereti and Imeretian (with the holes).Picture: Stephen Scourfield/The West Australian

Khachapuri — a Georgian bread dish.
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Khachapuri — a Georgian bread dish.Picture: Stephen Scourfield/The West Australian

A kvevri in which wine is made. It is buried underground. Pheasant’s Tears winery in Signagi, Georgia.
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A kvevri in which wine is made. It is buried underground. Pheasant’s Tears winery in Signagi, Georgia.Picture: Stephen Scourfield/The West Australian

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