Subsistence and Commercial Activities . In agriculture a leading role is played by subtropical farming. The various climatic conditions and soil types have encouraged the development of a variegated agricultural industry. In the Ajarían highlands, with their rich alpine pastures, the cultivation of cattle and some agriculture has developed, whereas in lowland Ajaria sheep breeding and agriculture predominate. These two branches of rural economy (animal husbandry and agriculture) have symbolic meaning in both highland and lowland Ajaria. The Ajarians have developed specialized agricultural implements (for example, the arvana and jilgha, two types of small plow especially designed for use in highland soil). The people have practiced viticulture in Georgia, including Ajaria, since ancient times. Ajaria has advantageous conditions for the cultivation of orchards and vineyards. Traditionally Ajarians cultivated at least seventy varieties of grapevine, as indicated by terminology, toponyms, archaeological materials, and other forms of material and intellectual culture. During Ottoman rule these branches of agriculture (in particular the production of wine) fell into neglect in conjunction with the Islamicization of the region.
Traditional Ajarían cuisine is notable for its variety. Meat and dairy products are widely used, along with grains and legumes, vegetables, wild plants, etc., which reflect the agriculture and culture of the region. Ajarían dishes include lobio (beans flavored with spices), pkhali (a salad of minced vegetables), satsivi (turkey or chicken with walnut sauce), bazhe (roasted chicken with walnut sauce), mch'adi (flat maize bread), and khach'ap'uri (bread with cheese inside). Ajarían khach'ap'uri is baked with the cheese filling partially exposed, onto which an egg is added partway through the baking process. Foods peculiar to Ajaria include the dairy product q'aymaghi (very thick sour cream mixed with grated cheese) and borano (cheese fried in butter). A characteristic feature of Ajarían cuisine, and of Georgian cuisine in general, is the frequent use of sharp-tasting flavorings, spices, and aromatic herbs.