NATURAL  PRODUCE
ALMONDS

The almond has been cultivated around the Mediterranean since ancient times. The exact origin is obscure but the first trees probably grew in Turkey, and almonds have been found in prehistoric sites on the island of Crete. The almond is mentioned often in the Bible, being common in biblical lands. The prevalence of the almond in ancient and medieval cooking is thought to be connected to religious “fast” days when it replaced forbidden meat and milk.

Some botanists believe that the almond cultivated today is the ancient natural hybrid of three species of wild almonds found in the arid mountains of central Asia.

The almond trees of Crete would have once produced a viable harvest and income but during the 1970’s the almond population of Crete suffered a devastating disease which wiped out most of the trees.

There are still several almond trees to be found on Katharo and when in blossom in late Jan-Feb. they present a stunning picture. The fruit is no longer harvested on a large scale, but is still picked and used by the locals.

APRICOTS, APPLES & DAMSONS

Only one or two of these fruit  trees  can be found growing on Katharo and these are confined to the areas around Avdeliako.

GRAPES

Most “Vitis” (grapevine) species are found in the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere with a few in the tropics. The wine grape Vitis vinifera originated in southern Europe and southwestern Asia. The species occurs in widely different geographical areas and shows a great diversity of form.

Most of the grapes grown on the Katharo plain can be found within about 2 kms. of Avdeliako, and are mainly used for the production of local wine. Traditional growing methods are employed, the vine being pruned back after harvest into bushes or trained to grow along low trestelling.  

HERBS and SPICES

Most of the herbs and spices that can be found growing in and around the Katharo plain belong to the mint, daisy or carrot families, and include the famous Cretan dittany, thyme, camomile and fennel. Most are used in the making of medicinal teas by infusing the dried leaves and/or flowers in boiling water, whilst some are added to the cooking pot for added flavour.

HORTA

Horta or wild greens have been an important part of the Greek diet for generations and particularly so on Crete. Horta consists of the edible parts of wild plants usually the young leaves and shoots but may also include the roots and bulbs, such as Muscari (volvi) bulbs which are repeatedly boiled in brine and served with vinegar, salt and olive oil.  Most belong to the daisy family, such as dandelions, chicory, etc. but can also include fennel and wild asparagus. Horta is usually cleaned boiled and served with olive oil and lemon juice.

There are over sixty varieties of wilds plants that are collected from the countryside and used as horta, many of these can be found on Katharo.

HERBS and SPICES

Most of the herbs and spices that can be found growing in and around the Katharo plain belong to the mint, daisy or carrot families, and include the famous Cretan dittany, thyme, camomile and fennel. Most are used in the making of medicinal teas by infusing the dried leaves and/or flowers in boiling water, whilst some are added to the cooking pot for added flavour.

PEARS
There are many pear trees scattered about the Katharo plain including one or two groves. Most appear to be cultivars grafted onto the wild species Pyrus spinosa. The trees can become quite large and fruitful. The fruit is usually small and quite hard although not sweet they are not unpleasant, just hard work. In spite of the care taken to graft and prune the trees, few seem to be harvested, the crop being allowed to fall. The only conclusion I can come to is that the fallen fruit is a diet supplement for the sheep and goats that are allowed to graze in the fields in late summer.

ORANGES & LEMONS

No citrus fruit trees grow on the Katharo Plain.

WALNUTS

Walnuts are deciduous trees, 10–40 mtrs. tall, with pinnate leaves 20–90 cms. long with 5–25 leaflets. The leaves and blossoms of the walnut tree normally appear in spring. The male cylindrical catkins of the walnut tree are developed from leafless shoots from the past year, they are about 10 cms. in length and have a large number of little flowers. Female flowers appear in a cluster at the peak of the current year’s leafy shoots.

The walnut favours the cooler damper environments that exist at higher altitudes. Several small groves of trees can be found to the east of the plain the produce from which is used purely on a local basis.