I visited a city on the West coast Called Nantes. I will post more about the city in a few days as I am preparing the pictures and all, but today I will post a few words about the beautiful farmer's market they have in the centre of town.
We were very lucky as the apartment which we stayed in was just opposite the market so I was visiting it almost on a daily basis!
It's name is Talensac and it first opened in 1937. It is a classic food market with a built inside space where all the shops that sell fish, meat, bread, cheese and a few pastry shops are and an open space on the outside (still covered by a roof) where the vendors there sell manly veggies and some cheese and drinks from local producers.
It opens at 8:00 in the morning and stays open until 1:30 in the afternoon. Closed on Mondays but on Thursday it is open between 4 in the afternoon till 8 at night. It is full of people of course that go there to get their shopping done but especially during the weekend and Thursday evening the place is packed.
I was in awe of many things like the variety of veggies and fruit, the incredible variety of cheese and also all the preserves (fruit and veggies), the ciders and fruit juices as well...
The place has a huge selection of sea food because the Atlantic Ocean is right next door. I saw many varieties of pumpkin and tomatoes, many types of salads that they were even ready for consumption, many of which we cannot find in Greece and everyone was patiently waiting in line to buy the grocery of the week from his favourite producer.
Many flowers as well... cut as well as in pots. The stalls reminded me of the beautiful decorated stall of Christos Blantis, my favourite veggie producer, who I find in the market of Marousi and Vrilisia... (Note to myself: need to talk to him and arrange to visit him at his farm in Marathon..) I wonder if Christos has visited lovely markets like this abroad or he intuitively started working in the manner that he does...
I will not talk a lot about the great way everyone was behaving and how nice and polite they all were... Nothing like Paris and that was something I really loved Nantes in general. As it seems Paris is not France in the same way that London is not the UK and NYC is not the USA..
A few blocks further up there is a market that sells antiques every Sunday.. I cannot say that I saw many things I loved but I guess that was because I went there very late during the day as people were getting ready to go home...
The weather though was beautiful, the sun was shining and I took many pictures...
I hope that you will enjoy all of them!
About Nantes I will write more articles as we visited a few great restaurants there and in general we saw and did beautiful things. Oh! and will write a separate article about the florist shops there... I wonder why we do not have anything like that...
The way to a woman's/man's heart is through the stomach etc etc etc...
I wonder who said that for the first time! Tried to find out while writing this post so I asked Google but it had nothing to tell me. Apart from the fact that there was a recent study that actually supports that yada yada yada.... Maybe that is true if the food you are cooking is above average. Otherwise just forget about it!
But if you are a new food blogger or an aspiring one or just a home cook who loves to experiment beware! I have some tips for you! If you are testing a new recipe and you are just starting to get it right do not give any to your significant other to try! Because you will be in trouble and the nagging will never end. Make your tests and when you feel that you are closing to your goal then give her or him to try... They will feel good because they are helping you and giving you insight and you will be happy as well!
BUT if it is Saturday morning and you are first testing a pancake recipe and he/she says, I want to try you must be like a rock and decline!!! Because it will taste bad, the baking soda will give the pancake a soapy taste or will be too sweet or less sweet and what sort of a cook are you'd you cannot even make a pancake etc etc!
At least I do not suffer from all of that! nothing but support I have at home! Do try this recipe though... make the pancakes small and have them with a lot of fruit and little syrup... Just like the adults you are supposed to be!
How many times have we said ah!.. if only we could experience summer in the heart of winter…
Those sun rays that have ripened a fruit…because when you eat a tasty cherry it’s a bit like an atomic bomb..concentrated taste, like it has stored inside it all the warmth of summer..all the rays of the sun…
I think that’s the main reason we make spoon sweets.
I realise the practicality of the thing, especially in the old days when there were no fridges and its was easier to store things like that otherwise they would spoil.
But to have a spoonful of summer fruit in your mouth in the heart of winter is a magical thing. And like magic we like it a lot.
But today I won’t talk about sweets….
I made some pickled cherries and they have sugar in them but aren’t sweet and have quite a lot of vinegar!
Pickling is a really great invention..and it came about out of need, as storing food was a serious problem for our forebears. It has gone through many stages and today this is one of my favourites.
A real surprise when you bite into it..
I first saw the recipe in a book by Diana Henry and it was still winter and I was waiting for summer to come to try it out. And it came.. and I tried it, and it was just as I expected. A fruit both sweet and sour that has retained the sun rays within it.
In my pickling I usually use apple cider vinegar as it’s lighter and our local vinegars are just general vinegars …This is the basic difference in the recipe of Diana; and also with the herbs, as I used those to my own tastes..
We stayed at a much loved hotel in Mani recently just outside Areopoli. It’s called Antares. Antares is the brightest star in the Scorpio cluster and in summer you can see it clearly from the balcony or terrace you may have in the hotel if you are out sitting and looking up at the stars….
The Hotel is owned and run by Giorgos and Mina. I will tell you all about the hotel but I wanted to start by telling you about the amazing breakfast that they provide….
I will do this to show you what wonderful things you can make for your guests if you have the taste and the love for what you do….
Firstly there is no buffet. The breakfast is specific and changes daily. So you sit down comfortably at one of the chic little tables and they start serving you!
There are always whatever type of coffee or tea you wish as well as water and freshly squeezed orange juice (no packet stuff here).
At this point I should say that Mani is an especially wild area of southern Greece and the soil and water are limited. It is therefore difficult to find and source whatever you wish here. It means that you have to expect to travel many miles to get fruit and vegetables of good quality.
After the initial drinks there is a large plate of peeled and cut fresh fruit in season. Tasty and juicy.
There is wonderful bread and butter and homemade made jams and marmalades and their incredible sage infused honey which is their signature hotel offering…If you go there and you must…..ask for their fresh multi herb tea with sage honey. I guarantee you will love it.
The next dish is a wonderful local yoghurt with various toppings made especially for the hotel! Thick, tasty, sweet and you will believe it is the best yoghurt you have ever eaten. And on top they put whatever toppings they happen to have. And never the same each day..sweet carrot..sour cherry..sweet aubergine.grapes etc etc..
Together with the yoghurt they serve a different gluten free cake each day with carrot, with grapes, with cocoa, with apples….!!!!
As if this isn’t enough we have the “main” course..light and almost always inspired from traditional Mani cuisine.
We ate cured pork “Siglino” the local speciality with Graviera cheese, little pies with anthotiri and honey, salads with fennel and orange, vegetables, tomatoes, cucumbers, milk pies..each one better than the last..
As for the eggs… they get them from a local grandmother next door who has about thirty chickens.. the yolks are a deep super yellow and the eggs smell aromatically of the herbs and wildflowers eaten by the chickens.. too good to be true? Well it isn’t!Everything is as good as the people who run this place!
I saw that this time they were a little tired..Things are difficult they told me and they are not sure how much longer they can go on..I understand them..but we all hope and pray they can do for years to come!!!
When I learnt that some ‘crazy guy’ was cultivating blueberries just outside Aegio in the Peloponnese I said to myself I must go and see for myself…
And I say crazy because it’s a really difficult and demanding job in our country to grow them!
A little history about botany now ….
Bluberries come from North America. The Indians have eaten them for thousands of years and they were able to dry them for use during the long winter months.
It is a demanding plant requiring a certain type of soil and a certain type of water to grow. And that is because where the plant comes from, the soil is acidic and the rainfall is regular and soft off the rocks and not full of salts. In Greece our soil is generally of an alkaline nature and the water is hard with lots of salts especially from well water and that is why certain plants such as the camellia, the hydrangea and gardenias don’t do well here. As the blueberries are in the same family group as camellias you can imagine how difficult it would be to grow them here in Greece.
Of course there are some places in Greece that happen to have acidic soil and in those places only, you can grow these plants.
Themis Nikolaou has such a farm- with acidic soil outside Aegio in the Peloponnese. It was strange because his farm with acidic soil is surrounded by other farms with alkaline soils no good for farming blueberries. Don’t imagine his place is big. He was just lucky that his plot was able to start growing this type of product.
I asked him how difficult and demanding it was to cultivate. He told me that it was quite difficult to cultivate even after the plants have been established as they require good soil and soft water continuously . They also need a lot of watering in the summer months because the roots are visible on top of the soil, are very thin and need lots of water. Pruning is very important as the new buds occur on the woody exterior of the old fruit so the pruner must be very experienced in the process of fructification to enable the new crop to grow successfully.
It’s not a tall plant and doesn’t get any higher than 2 metres in height so therefore is easy to harvest by hand. The worst thing as you can see from the photos is that not all the fruit ripen at the same time which causes the picking season to last over a month. This requires many man hours to strip the trees of all their fruit thereby causing the cost to the consumer to rise due to high labour costs.
The worst enemy of the crop is the locusts, that strip not only the leaves but the fledgling buds that become the fruit. Themis has to put huge nets over his entire crop to keep the locusts out and to maintain the organic status of his fruit by not using insecticides.
The locusts are very smart and still manage occasionally to get in.
As it is an organic fruit you can cut it from the bush and eat it straight away! Its magical! Still a little hot from the sun, soft and juicy, nothing is better on a hot day..
Its great to eat them cold from the fridge but eating them cut from the bush is wonderful…the workers who pick the fruit cannot resist eating quite a few berries during the harvesting process… maybe he should tell them they have been sprayed!! :)
At this point we should talk about the health benefits of blueberries; it’s not necessary to say much..they are little balls of antioxidant goodness that are really good for your body. They lower your blood sugar, cholesterol etc etc. I’m sure you are aware of their superfood status!
Talking to Themis I wanted to learn how he managed it all. He replied that he was a little lucky as there was very little knowledge amongst the local horticulturalists about how to go about cultivating them. He managed to overcome all the problems through hard work and a lot of reading up and watching youtube videos and talking to other ‘crazy people’ trying their luck growing the same thing mostly in Northern Greece.
The produce is sold fresh; even though Themis would like, in the future when things are easier, to plant more crops and make products out of it such as wine from the berries and tea from the leaves etc. For the moment he sells in some organic shops in Patras and some good supermarkets around Greece.
I should tell you that there is a type of ‘blueberry’ grown in Northern Greece that they make wine with, which bears no relation to this type from North America.
If you would like to communicate with Themis or his wife Gianna here is their FB