Monday, 11 December 2006

Spring in December

You just have to listen to the weather forecast and all they talk about is: this autumn was one of the warmest ever and winter doesn't want to come. Although they say in Greece that real winter only starts in February and ends at the beginning of March, even for the Greeks it is too warm at the moment. The only rain fell at the beginning of November and the sun believes it's still summer.

It is such fantastic weather that even nature gets fooled. We spotted a wild pear tree blossoming pretty early and the anemones are busy popping their coloured heads above ground and chattering as if it was already spring. Acid clover flowers are also early this season. The grass under the olive trees is as green as a young spring tapestry, small goats call their mothers and even new born lambs step on tottery legs into the green green grass.

This makes the foxes very happy, you see them everywhere. This afternoon our dog Albino found the back of a little lamb, complete with two back legs, during a walk. He probably snatched it from a fox. Not a nice sight! I agree a bit with the Greeks: these foxes that murder those sweet tiny lambs should be punished.

Many times people tell us how many chickens or lambs they lost due to the foxes. Officially it is forbidden to hunt foxes because they are protected animals, but who is protecting the chickens and the lambs? Thanks to this protection the population of foxes is rising pretty quickly, as does the irritation of the Greeks about these red coloured animals. I love to see foxes, I don't even mind when they walk with me, but the view of such a tortured lamb is not a pretty sight.

Maybe it is also due to the beautiful weather that you see so many foxes parading around. We could have lunch each day outside in the sun. The small amount of restaurants still open each try to make the best mixed salad. Fine cut marouli (green leaf salad), dill, white cabbage and their own variation of chorta leaves and green spices. In restaurant Panayottis in Avlaki, we got fava served with large green leaves. They tasted pretty spicy and were a wonderful combination with the taste of fava (green pea purée). I thought I recognized the leaves from our field. No way! The leaves here are the same shape, but are more hairy and taste of nothing.

I couldn't even find them in my recently purchased book 'Ta Xopta' (chorta) written by Mirsini Lambraki. First of all the book is in Greek, a language I still can't read that well, and for all I looked at the pictures, it was not there.

However, it mentioned a lot of other strange things I never would have thought were edible: wild leek (never saw them), the leaves and flowers of the malve, the flowers of the yellow asphodelos, leaves of a fern (pteridium aquilinum), the bulbs of the wild blue grapes, the green of chrysants (chrysantheum coronarium), the leaves of the lupin flowers. You wonder why you still go to the supermarket...

The weather is too good to do a lot of cooking in the kitchen. I know that there is still a lot to experiment with in the Greek kitchen, especially regarding all those wild vegetables. But spring has not arrived yet, even though some plants think so.

It is only just December and the Christmas madness has begun. The special lights are in the streets, the big crib has been dusted off and set up and the first Christmas gathering has happened. Last Saturday the whole of international Molyvos came together at the crib: Greeks, Dutch, Belgian, German, Danish, English, French, Bulgarian, Albanian and Russian. (I probably forgot a nationality).

Schoolchildren and adults sang their favourite international Christmas song out loud. The Germans made sure there was roast sausage with sauerkraut and there were tables loaded with lots of lovely cakes, cookies and other sweets, most of them made by the mothers of the schoolchildren. The people were so quick to take them that you thought that for weeks they only ate chorta and mushrooms. Within two hours everything was finished and the party as well.

So here also Christmas time has started. But you'd better not expect a white Christmas here on the island. Although, you never know what surprises the weather can have in store.

Copyright © Smitaki 2006

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