I am publishing here a translated version of a recent post from lifo.gr firstly because Lefteris, the hero of the article, is a «new Ikarian» who, the same as Xenia, happens to be a member of KANGA, the partnership of local guides which I wrote about in April, and secondly because I think that what he does, besides being a guide, is very interesting. Lefteris is a modern food gatherer, specializing in samphire. He has been gathering this tasty and nutritious wild plant which is very abundant at the rocky shores of Ikaria, since he moved to the island nine years ago. In the following interview given to Dionissis Anemogiannis in June, Lefteris talks about his work, about the value of «kritamo» (samphire or sea fennel in Greek) and about living -and making a living- in Ikaria. Not only have I tasted his delicious little jars, but I also totally agree with his opinions. I wish him the best and I hope that you too, after reading the article, will share the same feeling.
There something in this view which hides in the many hillsides of Ikaria, those dressed in olive trees and those which are barren, full of rocks, something that sounds like a call repeated with the voice of the cicadas. Sometimes it is the echo of ourselves as we long for relaxation, for a humane way to live our of lives. Sometimes it’s just the rough beauty of the landscape and the unworldly silence which we forget encaged as we are in greyness and noise. To such a call Lefteris Trikiriotis responded when he took the desicion to leave Athens and move back to the island of his ancestors to seclude himself in an old stone house inside the gorge of the river Charakas in Rahes. After years of experimenting and familiarizing himself with everything that nature provides, Lefteris feels that he has succeeded in his purpose: to content himself with little and to live from the land, through gathering and through culitivating one of the less known treasures of the land of Greece: samphire.
«With nutritional and therapeutic properties acknowledged since antiquity samphire is a wholesome aliment, secret of the Mediterranean gastronomy, able to add taste to almost everything.»
Samphire («Kritamo» in Greek) is a succulent plant which grows on the coastal areas of the Mediterranean. In the Greek kitchen it is used to garnish dakos or as a base layer for cooked fish, usually processed as pickles. However, Lefteris’s wild samphire isn’t pickled. The fleshy leaves of the plant are seasoned in a mixture of wine and vinegar which keeps them fresh and highlights their intense and crisp taste which has a distinctive bitterness in the background like the taste of wild green herbs of the mountain. With nutritional and therapeutic properties acknowledged since antiquity samphire is a wholesome aliment, secret of mediterranean gastronomy which can add taste to almost everything. During a break from his work which in this time of the year keeps him busy for more than 12 hours a day, we talked with Lefteris and he shared with us his tastes, his thoughts and his goals, making come alive in frontt of us a sustainable solution to the crisis: the model of «undergrowth», which is about men and women who pursue a new relationship with themselves, with nature and with money.
— Lefteris, how did you decide to move to Ikaria? How difficult/easy was this decision for you?
«I grew up in a small «Ikarian colony» in the neighborhood of Perama near Piraeus but I didn’t live all my life there. I moved to the island where my family comes from when I decided to resign from a well-paid job in an industrial environment in the summer of 2005. After I spent one year in Crete working as a book peddler, I visited Ikaria on holidays as I was doing almost every summer, and a sequence of events kept me on the island till today. In the nine years that I live here I have done many jobs, as it is usual in Ikaria, among them herb gathering and outdoor guiding. It wasn’t difficult for me to go on with my life outside Athens. I followed my inner voice and allowed myself to shape the course of my life in the way I felt and not in the way imposed to me by the model of modern consumer society. As I left Athens I knew only one thing, that I didn’t want to work as an employee for any financial compensation whatsoever as long as that choice was against my conscience and did not cover the needs of my soul.»
— How did you decide to start cultivating and gathering samphire?
«For many people in our country the environment is like the black box of an airplane. When I started to explore the island as a professional guide as well as for pleasure, I came to discover a literally new world. My gradual familiarization with plants brought about the first tastings and the first attempts to process local products; one of these was samphire. I adored this plant as it is durable and thrifty and I believed that I could work with it towards practicing a successful trade in the long term. Later on, after research and trials in reproducing the plant, I made sure that it can be multiplied, so at a certain point I decided to try to cultivate it with the help of my companion and a friend.»
— What does someone need to cultivate samphire and how easy is it to find it in the wild?
«One needs to know the existence and the edibility of this self-sown summer herb and to afford to be as crazy as to cultivate something that noone else cultivates. In some islands of the Aegean and coastal areas of Greece and the Mediterranean it grows in large populations, while in others it is found only scarcely or not at all. I just happened to have frequent encounters with the particular plant which grows along a good part of the rocky coastline of the island.»
— Which are the difficulties that a modern food gatherer may encounter?
«The profession of the food gatherer is rare, more or less vague and undefined by the law, while its insecurity makes it difficult to provide a long term viability to anyone who is interested in this business. Also, bureaucracy does not allow the unobstructed practice of this particular activity as there is no national administrative plan for wild nature in Greece. As a result, even when someone wants to practice food gathering lawfully with responsibility and respect, he or she faces intractable deadlocks. Thereupon one needs to have imagination and decisiveness to create a living space that hasn’t been anticipated or classified by the authorities. One also needs to wrestle against several imaginable or unimaginable public services with totally rigid and outdated mindsets. Practically, the profession requires a deep love and respect for nature which offers generously to us rich sources of food inside its various ecosystems. One can find many of these ecosystems even in a small island like Ikaria. To become a food gatherer you have to explore a place for years, you have to experiment and to taste the various self-sown edible plants of the place. The wild herbs, fruit, crops, mushrooms, bulbs and even seaweed may give you new ideas about our diet and about new cultivations. Especially in Greece where we have one of the richest floras in Europe in relation to the size of our country, there are many species of plants waiting to be discovered and put to value.»
— What is your daily routine on the island? Can you describe an ordinary day?
«There is no ‘ordinary’ day on the island, and by this I don’t mean that there is no repetition. In Ikaria, like everywhere in the countryside, life follows a more natural course depending on the season, the agricultural activities and the whims of the weather. A winter, for example, can be rainy and windy and the result sometimes is that you have to stay indoors for days or weeks. Food gathering is not a routine job and I chose it against the advice of friends and relatives. When someone chooses this profession there is no pay safety. On the other hand, there is enough freedom so as to be able to improvise, to go on working with joy and to shape my daily schedule at will. The culture of a simple way of life and the pursuit of quality leisure time are two keystones which characterize to a great extent life on the island. I share this point of view with my companion, so for the last two years we have lived together in an old stone house inside an olive grove in the gorge of Charakas river. This particular time of the year I am working more intensively and I don’t have time to think about a lot of things. However, there are times when the machine crashes and then we escape for a while to some beautiful lonely cove or to some natural pool of one of the many rivers which carve the slopes of the mountains. After working hard I usually look forward to going back home to see the progress of my vegetables, the fruit trees in the orchard and to hug with my companion. I am looking for some rest and the company of my friends to end the day smoothly until the following morning when hard work will start again. The thought which often comes as a capping stone of all this effort to cover my financial needs is to ask for the least and content myself with little.»
— How would you characterize life on the island?
«Life in Ikaria is hard, difficult on the economic side but rich in the social side. Its rewards are scarce but they keep you alive and of course, the way someone will experience a place depends mainly on his or her personality and not on the social environment. Walking through a foggy forest of perennial oaks, hunting mushrooms in a cloudy autumn morning, is enough to bewitch you and make you risk everything to stay there forever. Every place has a lot to offer, natural landscapes, social relations, pleasures, hardships, as long as you decide to expose yourself to the place and experience its qualities.»
— What are your plans for the future?
«After nine years of hard work every summer I would like to find some time for a holiday at the end of August. I also intend to add more seedlings of samphire to the plantation that I have started. I want to build a house with natural materials to shelter my flesh and fashion the land around it to make it suitable for permaculture.»
— How do you like to eat samphire?
«Raw, the moment I gather it, with salt to add to the taste and with iodine to color my fingers. Also, fresh steaming hot together with vegetables from my garden, with natural rice or cereals, inside a simple tomato salad with a lot of olive oil and lemon, in a quick omeletith fresh eggs from the vagrant chicken of my neighbor, or in a fresh sasandwichth kathoura (fresh local white cheese from goat milk) and tomato, minced into a puree of legumes (split peas, broad beans, chickpeas, lupins, etc.»
You can find the Wild Samphire of Ikaria in selected stores around Greece. You may also purchase it from ikariastore. You may contact Lefteris Trikiriotis at 6974042417 or his facebook page. The photos of the article are by Niko Dayandas from his film «Little Land» produced by ΑΝΕΜΟΝ. You can download the film from here.
in case you don’t know me, I am Nana (to agrimi),co-author in Eleni’s blog
who though I have a blog of my own, chose to write and post this entry here. The reason is that lately the views of our blogs took off very suddenly! This blog in particular has received several hundred views over the last days!
What was the matter?
The last time we were that popular was in Minoan times when we recorded the fall of Icarus at the shores of the island.
Centuries after that we made a good score when we covered the declaration of independence of Ikaria as a communist state, making us another pocket of resistance to capitalism between Cuba and North Korea.
Asking around we found out that the reason of our sudden recent popularity was the issuing of this seven page article by Dan Buettner in the prestigious NY Times:
Therefore it seems that the dream of flight and freedom and the dream of a communist egalitarian society both fade against the biggest dream of all:
THE DREAM OF LONGEVITY,
perhaps (if aging wasn’t involved) the next best thing to Immortality.
But why does our island generate so many dreams?
I will tell you my opinion. I am an accountant and therefore, unfortunately sometimes I am on the practical side of things. The reason is nostalgia. The rough mysterious landscape (to the extent that outsiders are familiar with it) and our way of life (to the extent that outsiders are familiar with it) generates a nostalgia, a homesickness for old values, old raw ways, direct approaches to life, supposedly carefree and happy, forever lost in urbanization and globalization.
That was all I had to say.
We actually spend our evenings cracking almond shells. We have picked them from Eleni’s famous tree in the intro picture above. We sprayed the nuts with salt water, we roasted them and after they cooled off we stored them in glass jars. On these jars we have written:
Almonds of Longevity
ᶱ ᶱ ᶱ ᶱ
H προηγούμενη καταχώρηση αν και αφορούσε μια στάση απολύτως προσωπική, γνώρισε ανέλπιστη διάδοση τόσο από άλλα μπλογκς, όσο και μήντια. Αφού εγώ (to agrimi) πρώτη πυροδότησα το θέμα με μια γερή φυτιλιά, σε μένα τελευταία πέφτει να εκλογικεύσω, να γενικεύσω και να συνοψίσω.
Δεν είναι “Δεν αγοράζω, δεν τρώω αυτό που σκοτώνει το νησί μου” έτσι σκέτο. Είναι “Δεν αγοράζω, δεν τρώω αυτό που σκοτώνει το νησί μου. Όμως βοηθάω το σύλλογο που οργανώνει το πανηγύρι πληρώνοντας το αντίτιμο του κρέατος που δεν πήρα, ως «εισφορά» ”.
Έχουμε ήδη μια πρώτη τέτοια παραδειγματική προσέγγιση.
Έτσι θα είναι για μένα λοιπόν στο εξής θα βλέπω το πανηγύρια σαν “συνδρομητικά” events.
Γειάάαααα σας τώρα. Έχει σηκώσει μελτέμι.
Δουλειά όλη μέρα, φεύγω, πάω για…
ᶱ ᶱ ᶱ ᶱ
.~* Το κειμενο που ακολουθει ειναι επισης δικο του .~* και βρισκεται κατω απο την φωτογραφια. .~* Εγω το μεταφρασα γιατι του αξιζει.
εφερε αυτο »
κυριως λογω αυτου »
που πουλιεται και τρωγεται στα πανηγυρια »
Α οχι δεν εφταιγε η Ε.Ε. και η Ελληνικη κυβερνηση. Αληθεια οτι η πρωτη δεν επρεπε να επιδοτει τις κατσικες κι η δευτερη επρεπε να ειχε καποιο ελεγχο της καταστασης.
Ομως πρωτα και κυρια το φταιξιμο ηταν δικο μας.
Ημασταν ρομαντικοι και δεν βλεπαμε εκεινο που ηταν μπροστα στα ματια μας. Οτι μια αρχαια παραδοση ειχε παρει μια καταστροφικη τροπη. Μια γιορτη ενος χωριου (“πανηγύρι”) οπου το μενου ηταν αποκλειστικα κατσικι και που ηταν προγραμματισμενη να ικανοποιησει 50-100 ατομα εως τη δεκατια του 1970, αναμενεται να θρεψει 4.000 τουριστες και ντοπιους στις μερες μας. Και ενω παλια γινονταν μονο 20-30 τετοιες γιορτες, τωρα εχουμε περισσοτερες απο 100 το χρονο, σχεδον ολες το καλοκαιρι.
Ημαστε Ελληνες. Ή θα ζησουμε με μετρο ή θα πεθανουμε. Επομενως οχι αλλο κατσικι για μενα παρακαλω.
Κατά χρονολογική σειρά σχετικές δημοσιεύσεις σε blogs:
Μερικοί την προτιμούν γυμνή Ο τρελός λόγος μιας τρελής κατάστασης Η καταιγίδα δεν ήταν η μόνη αιτία της καταστροφής Καταστροφές στην Ικαρία: “βιομηχανικό ατύχημα;” Σαλεμένο Πατατάτο Σώζει Δάση
Αν ξερετε Αγγλικα διαβαστε τα σχολια κατω απο την φωτογραφια στο Φλικρ
Να κανετε συνειδητοποιημενες διακοπες. .~* Γεια χαρα!
«no» votes: 1
«don’know»: votes: 6
«a fool is a fool»: votes: 2
Great entry, stupid poll. But then again who knows? Maybe the answer is not so obvious for everybody. If you had put up an entry and a poll as commonplace as «In ecotourism lies the income», you would have many comments and votes.
But people who are on the net know very little about olive trees, the rain and fools!
Sunday September 28, 2008 – 04:03pm (EEST)
I like to collect olives. My boyfriend and I collected a lot in Ikaria last December. Great days and great nights too by the fireplace!
Sunday September 28, 2008 – 02:24pm (EDT)
I hope you come back this year too collect olives with us again.
Sunday September 28, 2008 – 09:59pm (EEST)
In principle I am very interested the olive, although, apart from consumption, all my knowledge is very distant.
But I am interested…
Are they really collected in December?? That seems very late. They don’t seem like Christmas things, like Satsumas do for instance.
I planted an olive close to the wall (1m) at my shared holiday house in France.
Am I a fool? Will the house fall down?? Can you move an olive tree?
How did Thales know what he knew dendrosophically speaking? He knew that water was important? Is it all-important?
Wednesday October 1, 2008 – 11:18pm (CEST)
ok, we have a full house now!
– The olive crop in the valleys and from terraces on hills is collected December the latest. The olive crop in the plains is collected sooner.
– Water is all important. The correct balance of water, that is.
– Olive trees are easy to transplant. You dig a big hole around the roots and then bring a crane to uproot the tree. It’s a nice tree, tamed and given to the humans by Athena the goddess herself. If the owners are hard working, the tree does whatever they want it to do. Even if you are not a hard worker, it is sufficiant that you talk to the tree every now and then.
(Did you follow the tradition and planted the tree when your son was born?)
– Who voted «no»???? A hawk of the stock market?
Friday October 3, 2008 – 03:56am (PDT)
There is also the sun.
«μέσα στον ήλιο αναγαλλιάζουν οι ελιές» = in the sun the olives rejoice
(The beautiful assonance of 4 «L»s in this verse by Kavadias is lost in the translation.)
Friday October 3, 2008 – 11:06pm (EEST)
I see in wikipedia
that there are some very long lived olives; they must be good at withstanding the hot and dry, as well as the frosty years. Also that they do best on poor rocky soils.
We planted ours as soon as we got the house. It’s not the mediterranean, but the soil is chalky. I may need to get a crane. And a beatiful tall straw hat.
Monday October 6, 2008 – 04:37pm (CEST)
After a few centuries people might call it: Simon’s Olive tree. The tree which the teller of tales planted and looked after. The tree under which he sat and told his tales. The tree that provided the oil for his salad and for the wheel of his eloquent tongue.
Monday October 6, 2008 – 12:37pm (PDT)
I voted ‘no’ not because I am a «hawk of the stock market» (:lol:), just a small business ordinary accountant. I voted no but because olive trees need A LOT OF WORK!
Tuesday October 7, 2008 – 09:19pm (EEST)
«…it is sufficiant that you talk to the tree every now and then. …»
I like that!
Wednesday May 13, 2009 – 01:26am (EEST)
That’s easy. The hard thing is to talk to the olive press factory man and stop him from polluting the rivers!!!!
Wednesday May 13, 2009 – 12:19pm (PDT)
Basically this is a TEST to see how «create a poll» works
In order to do me the honour and vote, I don’t think you need to be «connected» to my blog.
If you have a Yahoo ID, it’s probable that you will be able to vote using only your Yahoo! nickname and password.
Also, you don’t have to be too serious in casting your votes. I’ll tell the Greek PM (who reads my blog) not to take any important desicions about Ikaria judging from the results of this poll. It’s all «off the record» and completely unofficial -just one more of Eleni’s endless tricks & teases…
So let’s see how it goes.
What should we grow on the terasses of Ikaria?
What should we grow on the terasses of Ikaria?
- thorny bushes/cactuses
- nothing -leave them alone and wild
- whatever -just take care that those ancient stonewalls stand in place
- How about STRAWBERRIES?
- Simon G
Sorry PM, I voted ‘flowers‘ – but now that I think about it, perhaps this may not be good for the ikarian economy. Just a whim, really.
Sunday May 28, 2006 – 07:53am (CEST)
no votes for marihuana? Come on now…
Sunday May 28, 2006 – 03:11pm (EEST)
I was tempted.. but the stone walls are tooooo important! They are a trademark of the island.
@AKK: We hiked a trail today from Pigi to Kampos, which Mihalis said you’re «clearing».. However, I must say that in places it was looking a wee bit .. shall we say.. over-natural 🙂
Sunday May 28, 2006 – 02:07pm (EDT)
so you hiked on a part of *the trail of the elves*
I left and the negociations with them were not concluded, hence, the *over-natural*. And to think that in other countries governments pay for this works. Oh, there are times I wish the Greek Pm didn’t read my blog like a comic book …
@Ψ have 2ice a good time in Ikaria ! ((-:I hate you:-))
Sunday May 28, 2006 – 12:43pm (PDT)
I voted for thorns ! Now the PM will be very confused. It was not a whim. I just love wildberries or blackberries or whatever they are called. I also like the «figues de barbarie» (frango-syka) the fruit of the cactus and I have a special (German made !) tool to collect, peel and eat them !
Monday May 29, 2006 – 11:45am (EEST)
They grow with big success in the mountain villages. They adapt so well that once planted, they go on growing wild. I should have told you on time so that you added it in the poll.
EVERYBODY LOVES STRAWBERRIES !
Saturday June 3, 2006 – 10:12pm (EEST)
Of course, I would have voted for them! R has been re-named Fraoula. It all started when she ate your stawberries AKK – she has them every day now!
Saturday June 3, 2006 – 11:11pm (BST)
- Simon G
That might have invalidated the whole survey now, adding strawberries in after we have all responded. You can’t just add strawberries! We might have voted for it! Now it makes it look like they are unpopular…
Then again if there are lots of snails, strawberries could be a ‘high-maintenance’ crop!
Monday June 5, 2006 – 01:11pm (CEST)
No no no … This was a test poll and thank you very much for taking part! Besides my friends, many others see it and I hope they can vote using just their Yahoo IDs.
Ah, by the way, I haven’t told you (you asked me and I didn’t answer in Flickr). I was planting potatoes this year !
I enjoyed it because they look so good (& orderly -this is my small vice) as young plants. Then I left and didn’t eat any. When I return, my good old neighbours will have kept a bagfull for me so that I can add up some weight again.
Monday June 5, 2006 – 05:03am (PDT)