We had visited many of these fascinating sites over three days in the area when I happened upon a guide book describing yet another use for these natural caves, with their consistently moderate temperatures: storing lemons (and sometimes other produce, such as potatoes).
I persuaded our generous host, Okan Yazgan (from Aravan Evi) , to take me to see one of these lemon storage caves, and he kindly agreed to drive us to Ortahisar, where many of these caves are located. He stopped to ask a student, returning home after school, where we might find one of these caves. (Thank you, Okan, for taking me on this important lemon quest!)
It was a hot day, but the cave was cool and dark, with strings of electric lights illuminating an amazing scene: piles of lemon boxes stacked to the rock ceiling, women in headscarves packing the lemons into boxes.
The lemons are not grown here, but are shipped from the coast and stored here for about five months before being sent to a plant for more cleaning, sorting and packing before sale. There are about 600 or 700 such caves in Cappadocia, the foreman told us.