Tuesday, 20 November 2007


Whenever my mother put a big salad on the table my father used to say: "Yuk, rabbit food!". My father didn't realise then that this 'rabbit food' was very healthy. It's part of the Mediterranean diet, which is known to be one of the healthiest in the world: a lot of fresh vegetables, fruit, beans, bread and olive oil.

Tourists know the choriatiki as a tomato salad with feta and some cucumber. In the winter you can also get a tomato salad, but the Greeks will not eat it: you eat whatever grows in your garden and now there are no tomatoes growing. So you have to do with green salads like lettuce, cabbage salad and grated carrots. The best is a mixture of these, anamichti, which is usually served with some green herbs and some spring onions.

Spring onion is the wrong name here in Greece for an onion that, as soon as summer is finished, is planted and harvested all winter long. And you don't find only 'winter' onions in the Greek winter fields. There are also leeks, beetroots, beans, cabbages, big onions, potatoes, celery and all kinds of green salads like rocket and radiccio.

Aubegines and courgettes are also a rarity for a Greek winter dish. In the winter they eat a lot of beans here: haricot beans, broad beans and those juicy butter beans. In Holland I would never order beans in a restaurant, but here they are a delicacy. Then you also have fava, a purée made of green peas (green fava) or chickpeas (yellow fava). The green fava can be compared to the Dutch speciality green peas soup and yellow fava is like the Arabian dip humus, fava being without cumin.

In Greece the beetroots you eat (panzaria) don't come in tins, but from the nearest field. They are cooked and served with their leaves, which taste a little like spinach. This dish is served with skordalia, a mashed potato cream with lots of garlic, which goes beautifully with the beetroots.

And then there is the famous chorta, wild vegetables, what my father would have called: "Weeds!". I have to admit that I eat chorta not because it tastes so nice, I eat it more because I know that it's so awfully healthy. Sometimes you will be served a chorta (or you are lucky with a good cook) that's not as bitter as usual and then of course you can enjoy the taste.

When you see so much healthy chorta served, you would think that the Greeks care about the quality of their food. However, a recent survey shows that more and more Greeks are abandoning the Mediterranean diet for fast food, like souvlaki from the local snack bar. Children are becoming too fat and don't eat so many vegetables anymore. So also here in Greece the modern food trends strike.

In the last years more and more 'Biologica' signs have appeared in the olive groves, which means that the Greeks have discovered organic food. They grow organic olives now, but how organic are they? The signs are not there because organic olives are healthier, it's because you get more money for organic olives. In the past they all used pesticides to keep away pests. They even used little planes to spray the whole of the island with toxic clouds. Nowadays they're not allowed to spray wherever there is the sign 'biologica'. Now they have to hang envelopes with the eggs of insects which have to fight those nasty flies. But are all 'biological' fields like this, that's the question. A Greek is fast in saying that something is organic. But for Greeks growing something organic just means that he's not using the strong pesticides (like DDT).

Fact is that the rains that have poored down for a month now and were last weekend pretty extreme and were causing floods and two dead people in the Northeast of Greece, came just in time to save the olive harvest. The small crinkled olives in a short time turned into healthy fat olives.

In Molyvos tension rose because the old olive press was dismantled and a new one was installed. Typical Greek the new one was ready just in time. Today the first sacks of olives arrived to get pressed into that green yellow gold. The farmers are laughing again because it's a saying that a very hot summer gives good quality olives.

I don't laugh that hard. On our land there are so many olives that the harvest will take two days instead of one. And also a while ago I promised friends to help them with their harvest, not knowing that the olives would make such an abundant comeback in such a short time...

Copyright © Smitaki 2007

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