Monday, 28 November 2011

Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May

Autumn on the road in the Peleponnese

While we are touring around the small mountain roads of the Peleponnese, Minas often sees something that reminds him of his youth. It may be a tree, a bush or a plant but it usually has something to do with eating. I am typically admiring the scenery, enchanted by the Fall colours and lost in a reverie of one kind or another. Then the car screeches to a halt, pitching me forward, and Minas says, " I just saw something" and leaps out of the car. I get no more information than that and I am left wondering whether this thing he saw is animal, vegetable or mineral.

What are these fruits?
This happened just the other day on a dirt road through the Taygetos Mountains.
Minas "saw something" and by the time my feet were on the ground he was deep into some bushes hung with tiny red fruit. As I reached him, he mumbled enthusiastically, despite the red juice dripping down his beard, "Have some -- they are delicious". But what are they? Will I be poisoned? ...... Is there the Greek equivilent of Montezuma's revenge on the horizon for me? .. maybe just a sore tummy and a lost night's sleep. Whatever! I dove right in and consumed a number of the mystery fruit. They were.... interesting!! Not terribly tasty but quite juicy and with a pleasant texture. They would have made a nice jam.

Minas shows the ones that he left
What were they? We asked and were told first that they were called "mura" in Greek. Later this was amended to " koumara". In any case the dictionary translated  'mura' as mulberry although they look nothing like the internet picture of a mulberry. They did, however, grow on a bush and I suppose that we did look like the monkey and the weasel as we ate our way around the bush. Luckily there was no nasty aftermath of our road-side snack.

Cactus fruit anyone?
Not more than a day later, Minas did another "screech to a halt" just when I was admiring a grove of olive trees laden with fruit.  This time it was a stand of cactus with each paddle tail sporting a fat red fruit - very attractive and very prickly. This time I stood and watched as Minas took his trusty knife and cut each fruit off ; dropping it into a plastic bag. At home he removed the prickles, peeled each red globe and stored them in a tupperware container in the fridge. I got one cut up in my breakfast cereal the next morning. Another interesting fruit with a little more taste but many, many small seeds. Good roughage, I guess.

Closer to the village, when we go for walks on the hills we find lots of good eats lying on the road or not far off it.
Cathy picks up walnuts

the three stages of walnuts
Although walnut season was past when we arrived here in mid October, just this past week we found a tree overhanging some green space next to the village water cistern.  The tree was on the private property of obviously 'summer only' residents but the nuts were clearly on the public side of the fence.
They were hard to spy with all the fallen leaves especially as some were in their green coats, some in the already turned brown coats and some 'au naturel' as we know them. After two visits to the tree we now have enough walnuts for Christmas and beyond. Delicious they are, as Minas whacks them apart with a small stone against our stone balcony floor. They are so fresh and to me there is a green grass taste so different than ones that have been sitting in 'bulk bins' for months.

Cathy holds prickly chestnuts
And we still are tempted to continue picking up the last few chestnuts we find on the road even though the commercial growers have just finished their work . We enjoy them roasted most afternoons, but we still have several baskets of them left. I heard today that you can preserve them just as good as fresh-picked if you bury them in river sand and place them in a moist, dark place with no mice or rats to eat them. YIKES!

Minas covets this sign. Will I let him steal it?
Of course there are some things along the sides of the roads that are of interest to Minas but that I really don't think fall into the 'gathering category'. One of these things is a particularly beautiful road. sign. Translated it reads:
CAUTION Danger of fire!
He is even contemplating buying a battery operated drill so that he can dismantle it from its support. What  would he do with it even if he managed to steal it and then smuggle it out?

Goats cross the road

However, we don't gather all living things along the road. These goats have a definite mind of their own. And they make you stop while they cross to nibble their favourite things. It does give you a chance to see if there is anything you might want to snack on in the vicinity.

And gathering rosebuds you ask. Well would you accept rosehips embedded in chestnuts in a vase? 

Rosehips in chestnuts in a vase fill a corner in the apartment

Cheers until next time when we explore real food for people from the local markets.

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