Spring is finally here and this alone makes me feel very happy. I hate cold, gloomy weather and this year the winter in Greece was harsh and colder than ever. Well, this is behind us now and the weather is much warmer (although lower than the normal temperatures during April), the skies are the same pure, cloudless blue and you can enjoy a cup of coffee outdoors, at least during the day and going for a walk at the beach, lying down reading a book relaxing, taking in fresh air under the limitless sky are some of the reasons why we are looking forward to living here in the future.
Unfortunately, the economic crisis is holding us back but although there are so many things which still need to be done in order to move and have ran out of cash, we hope to spend some time here during the summer, even if the house is not ready.
Last Friday we went to Assini again as we had to be there for the assembly and fitting of the closet in our bedroom.
After opening the house to the workers, they told us that they would finish in about three hours and after standing there watching them for a while, we decided that we could take advantage of this time and explore a few places we had not visited yet.
Road to Drepano
Just next to our house the road leads to Drepano, a lovely little village just 2 km from Assini. On our right were lots of cypress trees (you can see them at the end of the road), which serve as wind barriers to their fields and further on the right an old, destroyed wind mill. Lots of thoughts passed from my mind how people would come here, their donkeys loaded with grain, to be milled for the production of flour.
Old Wind Mill
In the villages you can find lots rooms to let and cafes, restaurants, tavernas etc., but at this time of the year the villages are mostly desserted.
Beach in Drepano during summer.
This is the view of Drepano from far away and in the horizon you can see the hill of Agia Paraskevi which is just outside Assini.
Beatween Vivari and Candia
Anginares (Artichokes) from Argolida
I have read that 90% of production of artichokes in Greece are produced in the region of Argolida in two villages called Iria and Candia, of the Municipality of Assini, not far from Nafplion and I was really looking forward for the day we could see some in the fields.
Artichokes from the region of Argolida at farmers’ market in Athens
And finally, just before reaching Candia there were fields, after fields, after fields of artichokes. They do cultivate other products as well but artichokes is the main product.
Artichokes (cynara scolymus) do not need much water, so they are cultivated in hot and dry climates and they also grow in the wild (cynara cardunculus) as they do not need any particular care. They are rich in antioxidants, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, fibre and vitamin C.
If you are in the region during May don’t miss the Artichoke festival with traditional dances and folk music, as well as lots of food with artichokes as its main ingredient.
In the past this plant was considered to be an aphrodisiac but nowadays this myth has been busted but it does have a lot of other healthy properties. It contains an acid called Cynarin, which protects the liver from anything that might affect it such as hepititis or cirrhosis. It is diuretic, anticeptic and helps relief gastroenteric problems. It reduces the levels of cholesterol in the blood, it also reduces the sugar levels in the blood, it strenthens the immune system and recently studies have shown that the acids caffeic and flavoinoids help fight cancer.
Artichokes are native to the Mediterranean and in Greece they appear during the last months of winter and spring. Although during the past years we have all sorts of vegetables cultivated in green houses, we never see artichokes after the end of Spring.
According to Greek Mythology, Dias (Zeus) the King of the Gods, had easy access to the women of the world and took full advantage of it. Also, his power as a supreme god made him difficult to resist. He fell in love with a beautiful girl called Cynara, who rejected him and refused to resist and Dias got so angry that he transformed her into a plant. In ancient Greek the name for artichoke was Cynara (pr. Kynara) in modern Greek An(cynara) = ankinara.
If you avoid cooking artichokes because you don’t know how to clean them, it’s very easy if you follow these simple steps:
How to clean / trim artichokes
First of all when buying fresh artichokes chose those that feel heavy for their size and if you press them just above the stem, where the heart of the artichoke is, it should be firm, with tightly closed leaves and tender stalks.
As artichokes oxidize and turn brown quickly, fill a bowl with water and add the juice of 1 lemon. Your hands might get stained so it is better to use disposable plastic gloves when cleaning them.
Cut off the stem of the artichoke, up to the base but do not discard.
Remove any leaves that are hard around the base of the artichoke.
Cut off the top 1/3 of the artichoke because the lower part is not edible.
Spoon out the hairy choke. Place the artichoke immediately in the water.
When done with all the artichokes, now peel off the stem around the fibrous core. This part is edible as well.
(Note: as there are many varieties of artichokes, I am not sure if the inner part of the stalk is edible in all varieties. Peel it and if it’s flesh is firm, then it is fine).
Other relevant recipes:
Kopiaste and Kali Orexi,