Monday, 13 March 2006

Green food

In Greece in the summer you eat tomatoes and green salad is hard to get, but in the winter you will find plenty of it: the green marouli salad. It is an endive-like salad and the leaves are cut in small strips. Somewhere I read that they are better torn into strips, that seems to be healthier. Torn or cut, you eat marouli with some lemon juice and olive oil or in the anámikti (mixed salad) in combination with fine cut white cabbage and carrot. According to the season it is often served with some other chorta (wild salad).

At a good vegetable shop, but also sometimes from the man who sells vegetables on his donkey, you get a bunch of marouli with a spring onion and some chorta or herbs. Most of the time that will be dill, but last week I got a bunch of flowers with it. When I came home I wondered what I would have to do with those flowers. After studying a little I realized that it must be rocket, which I thought is a salad, but in free nature it is a white- yellowish flower. Indeed their leaves are like rocket, only they are a lot smaller than those of the cultivated ones. Anyhow, their taste is spicy and nut-like and they go very well with a marouli salad. The leafless flowers I put in a pot and I hope no Greek will pass by because he will have a fit of laughter because I have salad-flowers standing in a pot.

Because of the chorta-fever which is raging over the island during lent this week I tried out some other kinds of chorta. Not that I'm abstaining from eating meat but all those chorta-pickers do make me curious. Our field is filling up with yellow flowers: white mustard. When the buds appear you take the upper part of the stem with buds, blanch them in boiling water and hoppa: mustard-chorta. The taste however has nothing to do with the spicy taste of mustard: somewhere between a cabbage and asparagus taste. Although it is very healthy and it is a good combination with marouli and rocket.

Another herb that I know already all my life but which I kept a good distance from is the nettle. It is common knowledge that nettles are very healthy. It cleans the blood, it stops bleeding, it is anti-allergic and it is full of vitamins A and C and minerals like iron, potassium and magnesium. And you do not want to know everything you can do with it in the kitchen. Best known is the nettle-soup, but also you can make a salad with it, spice cheese, make an omelet, put it through pasta or make balls with it. Just look it up on the internet and you will be amazed.

The old Greeks already ate plenty of them, Plinius gives it its prickly name (Urtica, which means a burning or itchy feeling) and the old Romans used nettles to increase their manhood.

Between the showers, and there were many yesterday, I finally decided to go for the nettles and I put thick gloves on. I dare to eat a lot, but nettles always scare me, maybe because these were painful moments when I met them in my childhood. So I carefully picked some young plants and of course got stuck by them because the gloves did not cover my wrists and I got nettle stings. As I read on the internet I put some rosemary on it (you can use for the same purpose dock, plantain, sage or mint), but it did not take the itching away.

So I threw the nettles in a pot with boiling water, while scratching my wrists and I cooked them for about ten minutes and then I had cooked nettles. I still was scared to death to taste them but I had to taste one before I mixed them with the eggs and some feta for an omelette. So I put a nettle in my mouth and eureka! It tastes like spinach! Very tasty and super healthy.

I already know how to find wild spinach, just like purslane which in the summer can taste so good in a tomato salad. Vegetables which do not grow all year long but whose time is coming soon are the wild asparagus (thin green shoots). Last week we found the first ones and the rain which has been pouring down so abundantly will only produce more of them. One was that big that it looked like a cultivated green one. It even seems to have it's own name, Thirnies, and is very good for the potency.

The weather was not so cooperative last week. One day of heavy cold and Turkey and the Lepetimnos were all covered with snow. So the snow forecast came true! Since the weekend the temperatures raised but then we got those endless heavy showers. But it is okay. We do not need to go to the grocery store anymore, all vitamins are growing in our garden.

Copyright © Smitaki 2006

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