Local & Global Markets In My Kitchen

The summer heat came in suddenly early in May, reaching temperatures in the high 30s C (high 90s F). Everyone says this is a highly unusual situation for summer temperatures to begin so soon in the year. The garden needed watering regularly, so we are lucky we have a huge underground well that is replenished each year in the rainy season with runoff water from the hillside behind us. More unusual weather struck later in the month with a few freak storms, helpfully adding to the water supply and making the garden very happy.

The garden is watered from a well – ο κήπος ποτίζεται απο πηγάδι.

You cannot get more local than your own vegetable garden. We have ONE wild artichoke (αγκινάρα) growing, the first ever to crop in the artichoke plot that I established. It does have these rather wicked looking spikes on the ends of its leaves. I’ve heard that they are sometimes called gaidouragatha – donkey’s thorns. Most of my plants are quite young, having been put in earlier in the year, and I believe it takes a while for them to establish themselves. I’m now pondering what to do with a solo αγκινάρα. Part of a meze platter, perhaps? Apparently, they are very difficult to peel – no doubt because of those donkey thorns.

Meanwhile, I’ve been getting the freezer cleared out (as far as possible), ready to fill it with big bags of ice – an essential ingredient for surviving Greek summers. In doing this cleaning, I discovered a giant bag of Greek chickpea flour stashed away sometime last autumn found after my supply of Italian chickpea flour ran out. Chickpea pancakes were the result, plus a whole host of ideas for future use, many inspired by Indian cuisine. I also have a recipe somewhere for a Cretan chickpea bread I might investigate. It is amazing how different flours elicit such excitement (well, perhaps among a select portion of the population fascinated with cooking and experimenting in the kitchen).

I must have pancakes on the mind, possibly triggered by another recent find – a huge jug of Canadian maple syrup, only it was confusingly labeled as σιρόπι ‘Vertmont’, sounding like something out of Harry Potter. It turns out that Vertmont is not a mis-spelling of Vermont, but is the name of the Canadian border town. The raw product is shipped from Vertmont to Denmark, bottled in a small town north of Copenhagen and then shipped all over Europe. Speak about a global food network! It’s not the best maple syrup I’ve had, but still the real thing and not a flavoured sugar syrup. Beggers can’t be choosers. 🍁

Another amazing find was the availability of bags of mixed frozen berries imported from Bulgaria and Poland and packaged in Greece. It is quite informative reading the small print on packaging labels! Most berries – apart from strawberries – are not normally grown here in Athens (or anywhere nearby) and as fresh fruit, they are enormously expensive. I do miss them, particularly the ones that grow in my UK garden which my son (hopefully) is either eating or stowing away in the freezer. I was chuffed to find these big bags (1kg each) of ‘Fruits of the Forest’ mix at a good price. They proved to be fantastic for making sorbet. I simply modified one of Nick Palumbo’s recipes in his book, Gelato Messina, now more confident in making sorbetti. Will be posting the recipe for this soon.

After a day trip to the island of Aegina, the pistachio capital of Greece, one cannot leave without a stop (and shop) at the pistachio growers cooperative kiosk on the peir before boarding the ferry. A big bag of roasted pistachios and a large jar of glyko (spoon sweet) came back to Athens with me. I love the spoon sweet made from tender immature nuts, including its outer coating. Delicious with a bit of yoghurt.

Lastly, mastic experiments are ongoing – with a number of false starts – with the mastic I brought back from Chios last month. The best of the lot so far is a simple mastic butter for locally grown asparagus.

Despite my weakness for those berries & the maple syrup, I do try to keep things local and seasonal – the source of that asparagus. It is the season now for cherries, artichokes, asparagus and apricots with strawberries tailing off at the same time early tomatoes begin. Luckily, my neighbourhood laiki (open air market) usually keeps me grounded in the here and now!

A monthly IMK (In My Kitchen) post. Check out other IMK bloggers, each of us writing about what’s been happening in our kitchens each month, hosted by Sherry @ Sherry’s Pickings. Earlier IMK posts can be found on former IMK host blogs: Liz @ Bizzy Lizzys Good Things, Maureen @ The Orgasmic Chef) and the fabulous Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial who began the IMK phenomenon. A chronological listing of my In My Kitchen blog posts can be found on a separate page, just click the link or look under the heading of Diaries in the Menu bar above.
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20 comments

  1. I’m not sure about that Donkey’s thorn artichoke. When my artichokes send off spring all over the place ( and they will!) I always yank out these thistle varieties and keep the non prickly ones some artichokes just want to return to their roots as a thistle. Thorny plants are not to be encouraged.. Get a softer species if you can as this cultivar or root stock version can be painful to deal with.
    .
    I love your opening wall photo- and sign- beautiful. And the apricots looks so large and lush. Looking forward to your mastic butter recipe too.

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    • The ‘donkey thorn’ wild artichokes are considered a delicacy here, plus the tortoises avoid them. I do know, however, they are considered invasive weeds, so I may replace them with standard artichokes and see if the tortoises avoid these as well. I’ve now blocked off a small plot with a fence to keep the critters out, so I can now grow other things. Luckily, they do not like herbs much (except parsley) so they generally keep out of the herb plot. Moving here means trading slugs for tortoises as major pests. Still, I’d rather deal with tortoises. If all else fails in the garden, there is our local laiki (market). It is definitely apricot season now, but strawberries are still plentiful (and reduced in price as it is nearing the end of its season). Mastic butter – simply grind some mastic and add to melted butter before adding steamed asparagus to coat. No real recipe! I’ve just seen a recipe for a tomato sauce for chicken with cinnamon and mastic – something to try.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for that mastic hint. I see it at our local supermarket ( in a Greek suburb) and have never got around to using it. This sounds like a simple start. Yes, the thorny artichoke becomes invasive very quickly- they pop up in my brick pathways- anywhere and are a real bastard to deal with. Interesting that they are a delicacy- I think they taste much the same as the normal artichoke, which is pretty tasty. Tortoises- wow- we all have such exotic pests.

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      • I think of kangaroos as exotic pests! Use mastic in small quantities first. Many people cannot abide the taste, so starting with just a pinch will give you a taste to test if you actually like it.

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    • Yes, we do get excited about unusual ingredients! It is really good to find other people who feel the same. I love that pistachio spoon sweet. I must try to find out how they make it. It must be something like the way they produce syrupy sweets from other immature nuts.

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  2. I miss the Greek spring season which I haven’t been able to experience now for a very long time. One of the reasons that I’m excited to be moving to Serbia is that we’ll get more opportunities to see Greece at different times of year. Love the artichoke – another Greek spring memory!

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  3. Love all the produce Deb. And I adore real maple syrup. Vertmont? Who knew there was such a place? That artichoke looks a bit prehistoric doesn’t it? Kinda scary. I’ve always wondered about mastic in ice cream. It sounds so weird and the texture looks very peculiar. Just wondering if you want to be included in the IMK link up? I can add you if you are having problems with it. Cheers sherry

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    • Hi Sherry, Yes please add me to the IMK list. Just being lazy and probably would have got around to it sooner rather than later. Once I did that internet research on Vertmont, I began to see it everywhere – in all the supermarkets here. I guess the Canadian-Denmark link has the maple syrup market covered here in Europe. And those artichokes do look prehistoric!

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  4. Your survey of global foods is really fascinating. Produced in a small town in Canada, bottled in Denmark, etc. Just amazing, and I think it’s all good.

    best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

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    • I’ve only recently begun to explore mastic in savoury dishes. I do like it much better this way, but still add it to my traditional Greek holiday breads. Sorbets have become an obsession lately. I do enjoy the refreshing quality of them and now feel that ice cream is just a bit too heavy.

      Liked by 1 person

    • The market produce is always a surprise to me. It isn’t always perfect, but you can be certain that it is genuine. I am still on those mastic experiments, but it is tricky getting time in the kitchen lately. They seem to go well in savoury sauces.

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