You may have heard of a free lunch, but what about a free breakfast? It may have been watching too many episodes of The Two Greedy Italians, with Gennaro and Antonio stopping roadside to pick a persimmon overhanging a fence or a big juicy bunch of grapes. Perhaps it is simply the abundance of fruit trees growing everywhere in Greece, but I have been bitten by the foraging bug.
I have written before about why I called my blog Mulberry and Pomegranate. It is because these are the fruits and colours that have filled my life since I married Mr K. On our first few trips to Greece and in my father in law's garden, there was always the subtle pink blush of pomegranates - hanging from the trees, like beautiful Christmas ornaments. This trip to Greece has been no exception and there are pomegranates simply everywhere. Huge, sweet pomegranates. And quinces, all beautifully golden yellow, like they have just been plucked from a renaissance still life painting. The fields and paths of Greece are like gold and pink carpets, showered with fallen fruits.
Foraging has a strong tradition in Greece. During our visit to the Gentilini Winery, the winemaker Chris Carter told us about how, when cleaning out the weeds from underneath the grape vines, by hand and without pesticides, he often encountered elderly Greek ladies - knife and plastic shopping bag in hand, collecting the weeds for their daily Horta. Foraging for fruit is, for the most part much easier than for Horta - because most fruits are so easily identifiable, unlike weeds - which can have nasty look-alikes. The rules for foraging also depend upon where you are. Generally, you cannot forage on private property or in conservation areas. In countries such as England, you can forage on public land for personal use - as long as you are not making any money out of your finds.
The little village in which we are staying is atop a hill that looks out to the sea. There is a very small little cream colored church and in front of it stand two beautiful musk trees, filled with bright yellow pom poms. On Mr K's mother's home island of Zakynthos the pods of the trees are used to make a beautiful perfume called bougarini. It is my mother-in-law's favourite perfum. The scent from the trees wafts through the village. It is nearly silent here, apart from the little jingles of the bells tied around the necks of the goats, which shepherds are hearding through the fields of olive trees, fig trees and blackberry brambles. There are quinces, pomegranates, lemons and oranges hanging over the stone walls of the fields, onto every twist of the main road running through the village. I am overcome with a sensory overload and I tell Mr K that we have stop the car and ask to pick some. When we ask, the kind villager wandering down the road says, "it's nothing. Take as many as you want." Like all good foragers, we find a spot of abundance and only take a couple of fruits. A large pomegranate, two large quinces and a few pale yellow oranges.
Saffron Poached Quince
3 tablespoons of caster sugar
500 ml of water
2 large quinces
Pinch of saffron threads
1 cinnamon quill
2 slices of lemon
1. Combine the sugar and water in a large pan, bring to the boil, and simmer slowly until the sugar is disolved. Quarter and core the quinces and slice the quarters into thick wedges.
2. Add the saffron threads, cinnamon, the two lemon slices and the quince wedges to the syrup.
3. To keep the fruit submerged in the syrup while it cooks, cover the surface of the poaching fruit with a round of parchment paper and weigh it down with a saucer. Simmer slowly until the quinces are tender (45 -60 minutes).
4. Serve the quinces slices with thick Greek yoghurt, spoonfuls of the syrup and a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds.