Sunday, 11 December 2016

Fruit and the Lack of It

Mihalis wasn't looking too cheery. Our friend with the ducks, hens and rabbits didn't feel much like smiling. His expression was prompted in part by my enquiry,

"Harvested your olives then Mihali?" I asked. Bad question.

"Finished Yianni," he replied, with a face like he'd lost a tenner and found five Pounds. "Ten days, all done. I'll have to buy oil this year, my reserves are now so low."

"No chance you may have some to sell me then?" I asked. In retrospect it was probably not the most tactful question to put at that moment. In the past Mihalis has often just given us bottles of oil whenever he's remembered to do so, often amounting to five litres in a calendar month. One time, probably eight years ago now if my reckoning is correct, he did let us pay him because I presented him with my 30 kilo barrel and asked him if he could fill it for us. Of course on that occasion I made sure he understood that I wanted to pay him. It was, though, the cheapest oil purchase we've ever made.

Mihalis' olive harvest is usually a three-week affair. That's three weeks of seven days a week, 8.00am starts and 4.00pm finishes, resulting in his driving his battered ancient old Suzuki Swift to the mill, taking his harvest in sacks there over two journeys. It's always struck me as odd that he still has a car and not a 4x4. In fact his car is a similar model to the one we had for our first six years here, except that ours was a hatchback and his has a boot (trunk, guys). He does, nevertheless, always manage. I won't say that his is a car that I'd want, though, to be offered a lift in while wearing smart-casual.

He looked at me all world-weary. "No rain Yianni. The olives are halia this year." Ηalia [Χάλια] basically translates as lousy, awful, they suck. Yes, we have had a bit of rain this past couple of weeks, but we'd need heavy rain for five days out of seven for the next couple of months to catch up on the deficit. When it mattered most, last winter and this October, it didn't rain (or didn't rain enough) and thus the olives didn't fatten up. OK, so there will be some (a few I'd say) who'll say their olives are OK, owing to their trees being situated where their micro-climate maybe helped by protecting their moisture levels, but as a general rule, we're looking at a shortage.

Hey ho, so it'll probably be off to the mill for us to buy some oil to stop us running dry. We probably get through about two litres a month and we don't have enough to get us through the winter now.

At least, although there may be a distinct shortage of olive oil, there is no lack of citrus fruit. You can always tell what time of the year it is by looking at the fruit bowl in our house...

And, apart from the tommies, this lot didn't cost us a penny

And before your eyebrows make a sturdy attempt to rise so far up your forehead as to be hidden by your fringe, you may wish to know that those "in the know", as it were, will always say that the best place for your tomatoes is in a bowl at room temperature with the rest of the fruit, rather than in the fridge. And not just because they are officially classed botanically as a fruit either. 

Our fruit bowl always looks like this from December through January and often beyond, largely because just about every Greek friend we have has citrus trees and they invariably have far too much fruit to eat themselves, luckily for us.

In fact, my dearly beloved often ends up juicing ours before they go "off" owing to the sheer quantity we usually receive. I know I've probably said it before, but when you eat oranges or mandarins that you've either picked yourself, or were grown not a stone's throw away, you get spoilt. Their flavour is that good. It's one of the great joys of the winter season. It's also why the only houses, or rooms, in which you'll see oranges in a bowl during the summer months will be in accommodation where tourists are staying. No self-respecting Rhodean resident will eat such tasteless matter, which has probably been shipped several thousand miles to reach the shops here. If you buy your oranges down the road in the local greengrocer's, you won't see them on sale there during the summer months. 

Mihalis, at least, does have oranges on his trees. He perked up when I mentioned those. Don't ask me why there doesn't seem to be such a crisis with the citrus fruit as there is with the olive harvest this year. The answer is quite beyond me.

It's not something I'll fret about, as long as I can peel a scrumptious navel while we're doing our couch-potato thing while watching Strictly. Bliss.

1 comment:

  1. John. We are lucky as below us is our landlords garden with lemon,orange & mandarin trees. Nothing like a fresh squeezed orange or 2 for breakfast taken right off the tree.