There is an almond tree in the field next door to us… I have told you about this tree in another article in my blog..on re-reading the article I realised that I haven’t told you about another Yannis and I should..however I will get around to that….
This “half-winter” that we are going through is ending and having walked by the almond tree all this past week when taking Farah out for her walks I noticed that it was in full bloom and I said to myself that I should definitely take some photos of it and make a dessert from its flowers..
And then the bees came as we say….In other words not bees but a storm with heavy rain yesterday and although I knew what I wanted to make and had bought the ingredients for it, when I went to collect some flowers unfortunately there were none!….
In the photographs you can see flowers but they are not from the almond tree… they are from the small cherry plum tree in the same field which suffered no damage from the heavy rain…So I used them instead..I decided to continue using the name almond cake even if the flowers are not from an almond tree… I hope next year I will be able to make it decorated with the real almond flowers.
You might say “many will see and few will understand” but what should I do? I’m a straight shooter :-)
I decided to make a cake to show off the coming springtime and to honour the humble almond ..So it has almond flour, almond essence and almond liqueur!
Only almond milk is missing but next time I will add that too just to try it out.
It’s an easy cake..just take it easy as it has a few stages to complete…
We went on an excursion with the Mediterranean Garden Society (to which I belong) to the nursery of Yannis Gryllis.
The Mediterranean Garden Society is a charity which has the aim to study, cultivate and spread knowledge about the mediterranean flora more suited to our gardens in Greece. Growing plants in this way means they do not need as much water or suffer from as many diseases as introduced plants in our country.
I have been a member here in Greece for many years and I have noticed that most of the members are foreigners living in Greece, mostly British and very few Greeks… Strange but true. Maybe because the British have a great love of plants and gardens and gardening and have been known for it for centuries.
Anyway.. it is a very interesting organisation and if you are interested in joiningthere is link a the end of the article.
Let’s talk about Yannis now.
He is an incredible person and we are quite friendly. I have known him for many years now and in two different places.
I met him the first time at a flower exhibition in Kifissia (a Northern suburb of Athens) which he has participated in for the last few years, and he has always had one of the best stalls featuring plants for sale but is especially good for the way the plants are displayed.
I also met him through a friend of mine Andonis Skordilis; a landscape gardener who creates stunning gardens all over Greece and beyond and is supplied with many plants by Yannis Gryllis.
Yannis studied horticulture as I did and he also has a post graduate degree in landscaping. He is the person you should go to if you wish to have a pond or small lake on your property and need an expert to set it up for you.
I first went to his nursery a few years ago when he first set it up. I was blown away with the beauty of the plants and so many were strange and of the type your rarely see around in other nurseries. He started off by bringing to Greece the first water plants which drove me crazy! Water Irises, water lilies, decorative water reeds…and it was in a huge nursery about 3 acres in size! “What are you going to put in here Yanni?” I asked him, “isn’t it a bit too large?”
“Maybe a bit small after I’ve finished” he said….
I didn’t believe him and thought he was exaggerating.
The last time I went I understood what he was meant…The nursery is too small and Yannis has created something magical in Marathon. An area that soon will become a theme park with many attractions, many lakes with water lilies and Koi fish, a forest of bamboo, a display section showing how your garden could look if he did it for you and much more!
He cultivates more than 300 species of plants to give you an idea. He has special soil in which the plants grow creating roots that are encased in red earth and are capable of doing well in the arid soil of any garden you may have. The plants are always in their pots ready to be replanted without any problem into your garden.
Apart from the water plants of which there are many compared to when I first visited, Yannis has started to cultivate plants that most of us do not know much about. One example is those plants that prefer the shade. Until now we didn’t have a great variety of these plants in Greece which we could plant in the shade and in dry soil. He has provided us with many solutions to the problem of these areas in our gardens and on our balconies.
Another group of plants which he has grown are decorative grasses that range from the smallest “Briza” to a huge bamboo and with leaf colour which ranges from yellow to black. Wonderful plants especially if you see them moving with the slightest breeze!
Lastly he has a huge collection of Mediterranean plants that are very easy to grow bearing beautiful flowers, some can be kept in bloom for up to nine months per year.The varieties of Salvies are innumerable and you can add to any garden or even a pot giving light and colour to the garden. I forgot to mention the plants he has to grow on roofs. His collection of sedum is monumental and you will find everything from the smallest to the largest you may need. Of course he has other plants that he is trying out and they are not yet for sale- some he gives away to friends to plants in their gardens to try out. But some he doesn’t even share and he keeps them to himself….I can’t even get a look in!
Every time I go to Yannis I end up buying something. You always find something interesting there and he has the patience to teach you a lot. It is worth getting to know him and I’m sure you can get an idea from the pictures!
Those who know me a bit better knows that I am crazy about flowers. Especially about edible ones.
So I love looking at them, smelling them and eating them.
It's Good Friday today and the bells in the churches are pealing with sorrowful tones. People who fast properly do not even eat olive oil on this day.
But this morning as I was taking Farrah out for a walk in the park I smelled the flowers from the beautiful Black Locust tree (Robinia pseudoacacia) that are in full bloom.
One of my favourite flowers of the season highly aromatic and usually in bloom at this time of year. The flowers are used to adorn the “Epitaphios” (tomb of Christ) and during the nightly procession on the streets of Athens the scent of the black locust flower permeates the crowds following the processions.
The tree comes from the U.S.A. but pretty much naturalised in Greece and is used in gardens all over the world.
It’s wood is also used to make furniture.
The flowers are eaten in France and Italy and in Japan they are turned into tempura.
I also read that in Romania they make a cordial from the flowers and this is something I need to try out.
So… I turned them into a tempura, a recipe I adapted from Donna Hay. Changed it a bit and added some sugar
The son of Cephissus and the nymph Liriope a beautiful nymph of the Kifissos river…
He didn’t have the best ending..rather a strange one..
He was left looking at himself in the river and as he was so beautiful he died searching for the beautiful image he saw but could not touch…at that spot grew the first flower with his name.
The are many myths about its origins such as…
After treating a lovestruck suitor Echo, a beautiful nymph, with distain causing her to disappear, an angry goddess of revenge, Nemesis caused him to gaze upon his own reflection in a pool, causing him to unknowingly fall in love with his own image and leading to his despair; once realising his love would remain unrequited…he melted away from the fire of passion burning inside him, eventually turning into a gold and white flower..
That myth has a ring of truth to it…let’s not be narcissistic and let’s get on with our work and try to listen to those around us ..hhmm..I have met many narcissists in my life…
If you are wondering if you are a narcissist or not (now that we are talking about it, if you are wondering about it you probably aren’t) take this forty question test and you’ll find out if you are or not
Now let’s talk about the plants that have the same name..
Narcissi are my one of my favourite plants. They signify spring and they are one of the first flowers to bloom after winter.
I have many varieties in the garden and I’m sure I will have a lot more in the future. The bulbs are not edible as they contain many alkaloids so eating a bulb is not advisable.
In the old days this plant was used for medicinal purposes and actually one of the alkaloids it contains can be very helpful for patients suffering from Alzheimers disease.
Some species are intensely perfumed, so much so that if you smell the flower too much, it has a soporific, narcotic effect. In Greek Narcissus and Narcotic are from the same word stem and it may explain why the plant was thus named.
2 days ago the last Narcissus flower withered in the garden.. so this article is a tribute to the beauty they provided in the garden this year....