Fresh Fava and Green Almonds

I just cut the first favas of the season. The small velvety pods, with their tiny, juicy beans, are so tender that I love to eat them whole, on the spot.

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I still have a bagful in the freezer of the remaining large shelled favas from last year. They have a tough, slightly bitter outer skin that would need to be removed, if we decided to follow the sophisticated Italian ways–but here nobody ever peels the fresh favas. I love to stew these tender pods with lemon and wild fennel, like string beans, or I chop them and cook them with orzo, risotto-like, adding chopped fresh garlic and a handful of crumbled feta at the end. (more…)

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Leaving the city: A brief history…

Our property, slightly larger than an acre, is not far from the sea, but has no sea view. It came with fifty olive trees and about twenty aged and neglected almond trees. We are in a little valley, which is cool in the summer and somewhat-protected from the winter winds. But ‘protected’ is a relative word when it refers to the fickle winds of the Aegean. The noisy storms seem to roll down the hills, and we can hardly distinguish between the dry, cold northern gusts, or the humid southern winds as they surround us from all directions. Winters are very loud, compared to the absolute stillness of the hot July afternoons. Fortunately, even the worst winter storms have caused only minor damage to our garden. But we live with constant fear of drought, a threat that this year seems even more ominous than those of years past.

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“How lucky you are, to be able to leave the hectic life behind and spend your days by the sea,” friends often tell us. It doesn’t occur to them that, especially during the summer, Costas and I are constantly juggling gardening, work around the house, and writing. We rarely have time for a quick swim. Things were much simpler in Athens. No planting, weeding, irrigating, or pruning, and somewhat limited cooking in my tiny kitchen. I had plenty of time to surf the web, exchange e-mails, and polish my columns. In contrast, life in the country is very demanding. The day is not long enough for all that needs to be done. But then nothing beats standing between almond trees in bloom on a crisp winter morning, inhaling their sweet aroma as the bees begin to buzz, gathering bitter and sweet wild greens from under the olive trees, or picking fragrant lemons from our aesthetically lacking but prolific lemon trees… (more…)

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HORTA, the Edible Wild Greens

We keep an overused, slightly rusted, wood-handled Opinel knife in the glove compartment of our car. It is there because we never know if and when we will spot some gorgeous edible greens during our rides around the island. Greeks probably foraged for horta —wild leafy greens— because they had little else to eat. We continue to gather and eat them today because we love them.

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During the rainy winter months, and as late as early spring, there are plenty of wild greens in the hills and mountains that surround the villages and the big cities. Middle-aged women and men gather them on special excursions. Armed with a knife and a plastic bag or a basket, the horta-gatherers can be spotted from a distance on a steep hill, but also next to a busy highway. A friend once told me that he has seen Greek-Americans gather greens on a sidewalk in New Jersey. These days, though, most city people buy horta from the weekly farmers’s markets; and they have become quite expensive, a real delicacy. (more…)

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How the Aubergine (Eggplant) became Aborigin

For me and, I guess, for people like me who use quite a few foreign words in their texts, it was immediately obvious that the US English spellchecker transformed the ‘aubergine’ -the British word for eggplant— into ‘aborigin’.

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But the linguists never thought it was that simple, so they created a whole elaborate theory trying to explain why Greeks, Turks, Chinese, and many more people around the world confuse these two words… MORE

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