A Year in Paradise !


A Year In Paradise ….

Medicinal Calendula

Well.. .what an adventure!  This area of Greece is definitely challenging ! Living on the mountainside ‘twixt sea and craggy peak is certainly elemental. From sweltering hot, languid, endless  summer to wild, unpredictable,  stormy, windy winter.. From April  to November, a seamless  view of the vast bay twinkles enticingly in the glare of the sun. A stretch of azure sea reaches far away. right  to the horizon , and the  mingling aromas  of flowering lavender, jasmine, thyme and  sage and  daily sunsets  of exquisite beauty,  cradle the mind into a perpetual state of awe and wonder . In comparison, in January, the garden furniture was blown clean over the railings into the olive groves by the vicious violent winds which  whipped the sea into angry frenzied black  breakers, hurling themselves at the shore,  engulfing recently, the broken  harbour wall and sinking fishing boats on the quay. last week several lemon  and huge eucalyptus trees were  lashed, uprooted laid bare blocking the hill and our  shed roof blew away!

Therapeutic herb bowl

 

December to February is a crucial season for this highly agricultural region of Greece.  It’s the month for harvesting and pressing the ‘koroneiki’  olives for extra virgin olive oil.  The oil is exquisite and each farmstead  has their own particular time of harvest to press.  Earliest pressings  make the  greenest most peppery, zingy well-flavoured  oil, in my opinion. Mid to late January produces mellow, more golden, milder flavoured and importantly larger quantities of oil, from olives which are plumper and riper having remained on the trees for longer in the rainy season. Of course,  if you leave them too long,  you’d run a risk of losing them to the ravages of  stormy weather, and you might find most of your olives on the ground!

 

 

Olive Harvest

We prefer to harvest ours in the early to middle of the harvest time to be sure to collect every precious one,  and because we love the  greener colour and  zingier flavour.  Most Greeks in our area now use mechanized picking tools , a long handled rotating devices, held up to the branches and fuelled by portable  generators which growl  shriek and and whirr merrily in the groves. The old practice of bashing away at the branches and trunk to dislodge the olives over many days has pretty much died out and at this time of year, the fields and roads are full of tractors hefting huge jute sack-loads of olives to the presses, who work 24 hours a day to cope with the demand. There are five local presses within a 3 kilometre radius of where we live on the mountain side which gives testament to the enormity of the harvest.

our unfiltered extra-virgin olive oil bottled January 3rd 2018

The eating olives  called ‘kalamons’, are on the whole easier to harvest by hand because  they are much larger , graspable, and tend to grow in plentiful clusters  on the lower branches.  I love  picking kalamons . They  will take from three to six months to properly cure after picking, unless you slit them first, which we don’t  and there are many ways to do the curing,  each household will have their own preferred methods handed down through the generations.  We simply cure ours  in a strong sea salty  brine, changing it every month or so  and tasting along the way until the bitterness is  drawn out and the  delicious oily olive flavour is locked in. we then rinse off excess salt, gently dress them in a light vinegar, olive oil and brine  solution and pop them into kilner jars for selling in UK.

Home grown ‘Kalamons’

Then it’s the  turn of the citrus fruits .  Oranges,  lemons , limes and bergamot fruit swell and ripen and literally drop to the ground from December to March , we can’t pick them fast enough ! So we pick, press, process, bubble,  boil, mash, cure, can , bottle and jar the bountiful produce on our doorstep. See marmalade blog for more!

distilling orange essential oil

As well as making marmalade, we turned our thoughts to the ruby red pomegranate, swollen with wondrous jewels inside, and  and the succulent bursting figs that ripen in wondrous waves and hang temptingly. After many attempts at various fig related preserves, I decided that the best thing to do with them is to pick like mad, eat as many as possible fresh, give loads  hastily away to guests and friends  and then make the rest into a puree with vanilla and orange. The puree can be frozen for later use, in ice-cream or pies or pastry turn overs. What figs you have left may  then be made immediately into fig and apple crumble. I did all of these things and successfully solved the fig conundrum.  Knowledgeable locals dry them and bind them into delicious rounds stuffed with almonds, sadly I  am not one of them. We had more commercial  sucess with the pomegranates as we decided to make a tasty tincture using the jewelled fruit and juice,  blending with fine Greek Tsipouro, raw cane syrup  and lime. This delicious  tincture is available from the online  shop. We also made a wonderful and powerful tincture of lemon using the carefully rinded peel. Heady, lemony and full of sunshine is how I would describe it.

Bottling tincture of lemon

I also decided to set up an aromatherapy  soap shop as the therapeutic benefits of  flower essences have been a lifelong interest to me  and the reason for hundreds of very long  baths taken with a glass of bubbly  and candles over the years …So, I decided to to make my own aromatherapy candles and soaps, then, after much research,  I branched out into creating my own herbal remedies such as   creams, salves and  balms, for which purpose we bought a steam distillation  unit so that we could distill our own  essential oils from the wonderfully aromatic  herbs and flowers grown in my organic herb  garden… but that’s another blog…

Pure Glycerine Soap Slice –
Sea Breeze

 

 

 

 

 

 

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