The impressive hawthorn of Zominthos


In the archaeological site of Zominthos (Psiloritis/Crete) there is a particular hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)  which stands at a height of 12 meters. It is really impressive considering that its family usually grows like shrubs or small trees. Since it is the tallest known example of its species in Greece, it  has been declared as a “Listed natural monument”.

I am curious if the fruits of this tree had ever been used as food. Wild foods were traditionally important as a supplement to the diet (particularly during times of scarcity) and small hawthorns have quite edible fruits, which can be made into  jams and liquors. Also, the dry fruits were ground to powder and used as a flour substitute in times of starvation.


does anyone have information about the fruits of Zominthos’ hawthorn?









 And young vines, ‘neath the shade
Of shooting tendrils, tranquilly are growing.


The next few posts will be automatically published to the site as I am going to take a short break from blogging. In the meantime I will not able to visit your blogs or answer your comments.

Thanks for your patience!

See you in a couple of weeks….


The quality of soil is of prime importance in growing a successful organic vegetable garden. Unfortunately, our Cretan garden has poor, heavy, tightly compacted clay soil.  To improve it, we  double dig it, amend it with lime,  add animal manure, organic minerals and grow plants -like legumes- that add nutrients into  it.  Vegetables are rotated each year. This  helps them resist  pests and diseases.   

Everyone knows how hard it is to grow organic -and  clay soil makes it harder- totally worth it though. Moreover,  the short duration of vegetable crop  makes us creative cooks while it lasts.


This  morning our garden provided those beauties you see below …







The peppers were beautiful  to eat.  I stuffed them with  chopped tomato and  onion, mint,  barley bulgur and raisins. The filling was sprinkled with salt,  ground black pepper and olive oil. 



I placed them on a bed of tomato/olive oil/ chopped garlic sauce and baked them at 180 C for about 20 minutes.






I also made a salad of tiny tomato and purslane sprinkled with sea salt and coarsely ground pepper, then sprinkled with virgin olive oil and vinegar. 









Although melon is full of strong aroma,  the mouth watering and thirst quenching watermelon is perfect for this hot, hot summer day.

But you already know it… 


And, of course,  if you grow some lavender, the second better thing is lavender  ice cream!



…They are  charming, evergreen trees in the garden with  juicy fruits whose delicate pear-like flavor certainly deserve our attention. 



 The golden yellow fruits come into the Greek markets along with strawberries.  The fully ripe peeled loquats are eaten fresh  but Cretans also serve them along with graviera cheese and ice-cold tsikoudia, the local grape-based spirit.

And they  make delicious compote, a  light sophisticated dessert on their own. …

Seeds don’t go to waste, either;  they are used to make a liqueur. Seeds, pure alchohol, sugar, vanilla bean, cinnamon, pink pepper are kept covered in sun, I have been told.   
What do seeds taste like? I am wondering….
But I might have to try a few variations on this liqueur myself.


Loquat is also known as the Japanese medlar.  Gr. mespilo, despola, nespola, mousmoulo.

Loquat on Foodista



When you buy the red juicy strawberries that flood the market do not forget  those who pick them.


Because, the fruit that can yield more revenue than any other agricultural product  is one of the  lowest paid and most labor- intestive crops. To harvest the fragile strawberries, the laborers bent at the waist for many hours and pick them with great care. Then they arrange them  neatly in baskets. The same  persons are often responsible  not only for gathering and  packing the fruits but also for cultivating the plants.


The photo is taken from indymedia *

In Greece, most of those workers are migrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Bulgaria, Albania. The fact that many of them are illegal immigrants  helps explain green -house strawberry boom in the area of New Manolada in the district of Ileía (W. Peloponnesos). Today almost 95% of Greek production comes from that area. Greece and Russia are among the major consumers, though in the last years Greek strawberries are  exported to many European markets too.

By relying on poor illegal migrants, New Manolada’s growers offer wages which are very high to sustain a Pakistani or Albanian family back home but very low to sustain a  family in Greece.   The “lucky” immigrants live in crowded conditions (that is, 10-25 persons per house). The “unlucky” ones  live in the greenhouses, where  there are no toilets and drinking water….

But the worst part of the job is that some of the nastiest chemicals are used in non organic fields and greenhouses. The soil is zapped clean with powerful chemicals, the fruit is protected with potentially cancer- causing fungicides. It is not surpising that life expectancy for a  strawberry worker who is exposed to chemical toxic drift  is less than 50 years.

When you buy non- organic strawberries, when you  wash them thoroughly under clean, running water before eating them,
do not forget those workers who  came from far away lands….
leaving behind their beloved families….
living under miserable conditions…
trying to sustain the hope for a better future, though.


Click here for informations about Nea Manolada’s strawberry workers and first immigrant’s strike in Greece for better working and living conditions as well as higher wages:

*You can find many images of this subject at indymedia.



Here is the easiest way to make a lemon flavored liqueur.

1 cup  lemon juice

zest of one lemon making sure not to get the pith

1 cup  sugar

1 cup or more cretan tsikoudia or pure alcohol or 100-proof vodka

Add the  sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest to a jar and stir well until the sugar dissolves. 

Leave the mixture for 12 hours.

Strain out the lemon zest  and add the raki (or alcohol or vodka).

Stir again, transfer to a bottle  and store in the refrigerator.

It’s a  very refreshing and cooling drink.




Lemon Liqueur on Foodista


Prickly pear cacti.  Around here they grow almost everywhere.
It is said that the first ones were planted by Venetians on Crete and on the Aegean islands.

They are easy to grow… even on a stone wall nearby a minoan site.



They provide fences for the Cretan olive groves.


And their fruits are delicious…


The best way to enjoy them? Eat them chilled.

Of course, peel them first, to remove the spines (Hold prickly pears down with a fork. Use a small sharp knife to cut off their ends, make incisions lengthwise down them and carefully peel the tough skin.)
In Greek they are called French figs (fragosyka), Paul’s figs (pavlosyka), soft figs (apalosyka), shoe figs (papoutsosyka).



Until the 3rd decade of 20th century, shortages posed a continuing threat to many of the poorest areas in Greece. Things were getting worse during wars… In Graeco- Roman and Byzantine world famine was a weapon. Various theoritical works offered recipes how to destroy crops, fields, food supplies, how to poison water.
So, warfare included burning or salting fields, or attacking those who cultivated the soil.
Then the major characteristics of famine, the widespread and acute hunger and the disease, made their appearance.

In case of famine or shortage, people are forced to consume any available source of food, even of the worst quality (grass, pieces of leather, rats etc.). However, starvation almost never affects people equally. It is the poor or the inhabitants of poor areas who suffer the most.

Shortage of food was probably the main problem of World War II, particularly during the winter of 1944/45. Fuit and vegetable producing areas were luckier than the rest of country, since they could make even flour with dried fruits (apples, pears, figs etc.) or dried vegetables, wild greens etc. During that period, apple bread became popular in apple producing areas. Apple flour was its main ingredient and yeast was used as raising agent, though sodium bicarbonate was also used sporadically. The wheat bread consumption increased after the World War II against the other kinds of bread but some years later an apple cake became popular. This cake seems to be the rich brother of the apple bread.


1 ½ k. apple flour

500 gr. whole wheat flour

50 gr yeast

1 tsp salt

2 tbs olive oil

1 lt. warm water

olive oil, for brushing the pan

In a bowl dissolve the yeast in ½ cup warm water. Stir well and add 1 glass of warm water and 1 glass wheat flour. Stir again, cover with a cheesecloth and let for 12 hours in a warm place.

The next morning, combine the remaining wheat flour with the apple flour and salt in a large bowl.

Make a well in the center and pour in the starter mixture, the olive oil and the rest of warm water. Stir to form the dough. Knead with your hands, sprinkling the dough with more flour if it is too sticky or adding some warm water if it is too hard. (The whole wheat and apple dough needs more kneading than ordinary bread dough.) When dough becomes smooth put it in a bowl, cover with a cheesecloth and let it rise in a warm place for about 2 hours. When the dough is doubled in size, divide it and shape in loaves. Place them on oiled loaf –pans, brush with olive oil or milk and cover. Let rise in warm place until doubled in size. Bake loaves for 40 – 50 minutes or until lightly golden and hollow sounding when tapped. (Preheated oven 180ºC) Let breads cool on a rack.


1 cup milk

2 ½ cups flour

¾ cup sugar

½ cup virgin olive oil

3 eggs

¼ tsp. salt

1 tsp cinnamon powder

½ tsp ground nutmeg

2/3 tsp lemon zest

1 ½ cup apples, peeled and cut in cubes

Beat sugar with olive oil. Beat eggs. Add sugar and olive oil and beat again. Add milk and stir very well. Gradually add flour, salt, zest and spices and mix well. Fold in apples. Pour the mixture into an olive-oiled and floured baking pan. Bake it 190 º C, for 40 minutes. Let it cool for 10 minutes before serving.


  • With the autumn still in, quinces are in eating season….   And yes, I love quinces. Despite their declining in favour in modern times, I love their fine taste, the way they go into both savory and sweet dishes. Baked, cooked or poached they reveal a devine aroma and take a beautiful deep pink color.
  • The high acidity of quinces (gr. pl. kydonia ) counteract the greasiness of the foods, so they are ideal for fatty meats. KIDONATO, a dish that involves quinces and pork, lamb or veal was common in past. It was prepared mostly by the Greeks who lived in Constantinople, it could be found all over Greece though.This particular combination of meat and fruit appears to be derived from the Persian cuisine via Ottomans. In Persia the marriage of sour fruits, such as quince, and meats is found in many traditional dishes. Also, Persians stuffed the peeled and cored quinces with meat and transformed them into dolma. It seems that the Ottomans adopted these recipes in the 15th century. The following recipe of stuffed quinces is wonderful as a first dish. It  maps a little piece of personal history too.


In the year 1890, my grandfather left his family behind in Ottoman occupied Crete in order to study at the University of Athens. Having 2 older brothers already studing, 6 younger brothers and sisters in Crete, but not having a rich father, he soon started looking for a job. And indeed, he found the perfect job for a student. He was employed as a dog walker by the dioikitis, the chief officer of the National Bank of Greece.

Living in the house, he saw that the kitchen was the perfect place for night reading, after the cook and the servants were not rushing around to prepare meals and the sound of clattering pots and dishes had been disappeared. Besides, the cook was very fond of the boy and soon wrapped him up in the blanket of care. My grandfather could count on him to have coffe and cookies or a meze or fruits on the table, while was reading.

The daily diet of dioikitis and his family was based on traditional Greek food but the elegant banquets were based on French cuisine according to the upper class’s food fashion.  However, both categories were blended with some Eastern elements. Because the cook was French in culinary training but Constantinopolitan in origin and the dioikitis enjoyed his cooking. What a surprise for the guests to find savory stuffed quinces (kidonia gemista), a fruit dolma, on the menus of the elaborated banquets given by dioikitis!

My grandfather, for his part, encountered the novelty at the home of dioikitis and could not resist to cook it some years later, when he returned to Crete. You see, the cook had patience to teach and my grandfather was getting joy from cooking. And he did not only become brilliant with food but he also teached his children, so they all grew up in an atmosphere in which cooking is a pleasure for both males and females.





6 large quinces similar in size

400 gr ground meat (lamb or beef, or both of them)

1 tbsp rice

1 cup grape juice

100 gr. almonds, chopped and blanched

1 ½ tbsp raisins

4 tbsp butter

1 tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground cloves

salt & pepper

Wash the quinces under cold running water to rub off any fuzz and peel them. Cut off the tops and hollow out, leaving 4 cm pulp on all sides. Save tops and set the quinces aside. Brown the ground meat in 2 tbsp butter. Add 2/3 cup grape juice, rice, salt, pepper, cloves, cinnamon. Mix thoroughly. Cook until the liquid is absorbed. Let the stuffing cool and fill the fruits with it. Replace the tops and place in greased baking dish. Pour 2 tbsp melted butter over the quinces. Combine 2/3 cup water with the remaining grape juice and pour into the baking dish. Cover and place in preheated oven ( 190°C, 50-60 min.) Check to see if fruits are done. Serve them, while still warm.

UPDATE: November 16, 2008.

Here are two great quince recipes posted by two fellow bloggers:

A) Beef stew with quince (Kydonato kreas), by Food Junkie

B)Poached quince with manouri filling, by Kalofagas.