After working as a post doctoral fellow for 5 years at Washington University in St. Louis, Matthew Denos, a biologist, feels privileged to live in Greece. Being a foodie with a desire to help people lose weight safely, he offers a Weight Watchers online promotion codes and a Nutrisystem promotion for June, two clinically studied weight loss programs.
Farmers Market Update: Patras Organic Market, Greece
by Matthew Denos
It was a sunny and busy day in Patras, Greece and I headed out to the farmers market. I didn’t want to miss it because it runs only once a week.
What differentiates this Farmers Market from other conventional markets in the area? This is a 100% organic farmers market. All the food in this market is organic. That means that the food grows without pesticides, herbicides or any fertilizers. In addition, the ground where the plants are cultivated has been left to clear of these chemicals before the seeds are sown.
Farmers from all over West and South Greece gather here every Tuesday to sell their organic produce. All kinds of colorful vegetables, juicy fruits, cooking herbs, wine, honey, and even organic soap and aromatic and antiseptic extracts are sold here. I love it because it is the best place in the area to buy Certified Organic Produce at affordable prices.
Being located in the sunny Mediterranean basin, Greece is the heaven of farm products. It is the country where the Mediterranean diet developed, a way of eating that has now become a part of the country’s history, tradition, and culture.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are at their prime in spring and therefore I was expecting an abundance of oranges and lemons, as well as the first of the year’s harvest of strawberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, peppers, garlic and onion stems, but also all kinds of leafy vegetables that Greeks call horta (wild radish, dandelion, mustard, etc). I desperately wanted to stock up on some of my favorite late spring produce.
When I arrived at the market place in late afternoon, growers and producers were standing behind their stands brimming with seasonal food. Their contagious enthusiasm and pride in their products drew many customers. All seemed to enjoy themselves. There were about 30 stalls under red and white awnings arrayed in two lines facing each other.
I started off at the potatoes stall. If I were allowed to put only one organic vegetable on my table, that would be potatoes for 3 reasons: First, I am potato guy. I eat potatoes almost every day. Second, organic potatoes taste so much better than conventional ones. Third, potatoes have one of the highest levels of pesticide residues among conventional produce. So, here I am, loading my basket with 5 kilos (12 lbs) of great organic potatoes.
Do you see the oranges and lemons on the other end of the stall? These are two of the most abundant fruits in Greece. Citrus groves are almost everywhere especially in Peloponnese, the Southwest part of Greece. The annual citrus production is close to 1 million tons, the majority of which is oranges, mandarins and lemons. One third of it is exported to Western Europe and the Balkan countries.
If you ever visit Greece in Spring, when citrus trees boom, as soon as you get out of the airport you will smell the characteristic intoxicating citrus scent that fills the air this time of the year. Oranges sell for 60 cents a kilo (euro), the equivalent of 34 cents/pound (USD). I put 15 kilos (36 pounds) in my bag. I eat 2-3 a oranges a day.
The label says: “Fresh and Juicy,” and heck are they!
You see this vendor talking to my brother? When I took this photo, the vendor was telling my brother his story. Back in the 70s, he visited Los Angeles, CA. He was going to get married with a very rich Californian woman. The woman was so wealthy that she bought him an expensive Corvette as soon as the he landed in LA. He finally did not marry the girl and decided to come back to Greece. But what still lives vividly in his memory is that some of the fruits he ate in California were not as tasty as the ones in Greece. You see his gesture? “I am telling you, they had no taste” says emphatically shaping a “zero” with his two fingers. I am sure Darya will refute that, as will my brother who has lived in LA. Kinda funny, isn’t it?
Down the lane a bit, a beautiful display of tomatoes! My favorite vegetable. Or should I say fruit?
I filled my bag with 2 kilos (4.4 lbs). When I later ate a few at home, I could clearly see how much better they taste comparing to conventional tomatoes.
Brocolli stems, beets, green beans, and squash (zucchini) were abundant in many stalls. The zucchini fruit is very popular in Greek recipes where we usually boil them (some prefer to fry them) and eat them with olive oil and garlic. Delicious appetizer! I purchased some, boiled them next day, dressed them with virgin olive oil, lemon juice and pepper, and ate them with olives. They had a slightly sweet taste that went great with my turkey fillet.
Ready to make your own healthy Greek salad? This vendor sells horta. On his stall you can find lettuce, chicory leaves, spinach, rocket, garlic and onion stems, dill, parsley, and green Amaranth which is known as vlita in Greece. I used to grow vlita in my backyard.
Swinging around to the other side of the market, I stopped to sample these gorgeous looking olives. Could olives not be present in a Greek farmers market? Of course not! Anywhere you look in Greece you see olive trees. Olives are a real treat and one of the local favorites in Patras. There are at least 6 local olive varieties that differ in size, taste, and color.
The olive “bar” at the farmers market is the right place to figure out exactly what your favorite type of olive is and purchase it.
The woman at the olives stand also sold smashed olives in little glass jars. Smashed olives spread on small barley rusks makes a delicious appetizer. I purchased two jars and they were delicious. The jar also contained red pepper, oregano and other herbs, which all added to the healthy taste and flavor to the smashed olives.
As I was taking a few pictures of the olives in the jars, the lady behind the stall asked me why I was taking pictures of her produce. I explained to her that I was going to write an article about the local organic Farmers Market and post it online. When she asked me what site I would publish it in, I took a piece of paper and wrote “SummerTomato.com”.
She marveled at the fact that people in San Francisco would see her beautiful display of various types of organic olives.
Strawberries are at the market each week. Their aroma is out of this world and they taste sooo sweet! Unfortunately, they sell out within 10 minutes of the market’s opening. Who can resist the aroma of 360 different esters, alcohols, terpenes, and aldhehydes that comprise the strawberry flavor! I was not there soon enough to take pictures. Next time.
Grape leaves are necessary for making dolmades, a Greek delicacy made of rolled vine leaves stuffed with rice, meat and seasonings. Look how tender, green, bright and clean they are, and totally organic. My brother bought 30 leaves. His wife used them to make the best “dolmades” I have ever eaten. The label says: ΑΜΠΕΛΟΦΥΛΛΑ, which translates to “grape leaves”.
Honey, royal jelly, and propolis—powerful natural antibiotics, medicinal marvels with many health benefits. The label says: “Royal Jelly, the battery with the longest life”. On the back shelf sits natural soap made of honey and propolis.
I talked with the vendor, Mr Nikos Smyrnis, a member of the Smyrni organic farmers family, who explained to me how they prepare their organic products in the family’s 37 acres in Arcadia, situated in the mountainous south Greece. They cultivate olive trees, vines, herbs, aromatic plants, and cereals.
The little vial that the man is handing over to me contains an antiseptic solution of propolis. Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans used propolis as a pharmaceutical agent for its anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and pain-killing properties.
I ended my little tour in Patras’ Organic Farmers Market by visiting the wine stall. Sant’or is the name of the company that makes this absolutely fantastic organic wine.
They have their own vineyards in Santameri, a beautiful village in west Greece, which I have visited a few times. They cultivate a local grape variety called Santameriana. I bought a 5-liter white Santameriana wine. It is served cold with multigrain bread, seafood, and white cheese. Yum!
Here is another vendor selling their own organic wine. The label says: Wine made of organic grapes, 2 euros (USD2.6) per bottle.
The Organic Farmers Market in Patras runs every Tuesday from 2:00 pm to 6:00pm in the winter season (up to April 30th) and 4pm-8pm during the summer season (up to October 1st). Greek organic producers love their agriculture. If you ask them about their products they have a story to tell you for each one of them.
Smell the freshness!