SKopelos

By Sofia, Jul 29 2020 09:16AM

Such a strange year, but at least Skopelos' holiday season has now started, albeit cautiously!


Undoubtedly there are many positives to it all: the benefits are being felt by Skopelos' nature, in which the reduced volume of visitors is felt positively. Plus, there is space on Skopelos' beaches, in Skopelos' tavernas, on Skopelos' waterfront boat trips. Plenty of space!


We are grateful to those individuals who are here with us to share our start, with all the unusual advantages of this most unusual of summer seasons!


Stay safe everyone!


Reduced numbers coming off the ferries
Reduced numbers coming off the ferries
Early morning catch, Skopelos waterfront
Early morning catch, Skopelos waterfront
The DAWN of good health (hopefully!)
The DAWN of good health (hopefully!)
A sailing flotilla moored at the harbour
A sailing flotilla moored at the harbour

By Sofia, Jul 18 2020 07:12PM

This season's project is the cultivation of a common myrtle! In nature, this is an evergreen, lightly-scented shrub with a profusion of white, scented flowers which turn into blue berries when ripe. In ancient times, myrtle symbolized love and beauty: in Greek mythology it was a tree, sacred to Aphrodite for example. The Romans are also said to have held the myrtle in reverence and propagated it widely in all the areas of their conquests. This evergreen shrub is still revered in Greece and, on religious holidays and weddings, churches are decorated with branches of it.


In nature the myrtle is a shrub, but I have spotted myrtle in a Skopelos Old Town shrine, growing freely as a tree (maybe a self-seeded occurrence of a berry dropping off the decoration branches?).


In the autumn, I dug out cuttings from close to the root of a shrub and - happily - they have taken. One I planted freely in the soil against the wall, hopefully to slowly grow into a tree similar to the ones in the chapel yards. The second I planted in a pot, hopefully to be trained into a potted small tree, to move about in the garden or even to take indoors in the winter months.


So far, both have done well having flowered profusely, attracting bees, butterflies and other insects. They are now full of green berries for the birds to enjoy.


Myrtle in the first stages of potting
Myrtle in the first stages of potting
Potted myrtle tree in bloom
Potted myrtle tree in bloom
Myrtle tree in the chiurch yard of Ag. Mercurios (Skopelos Old Town)
Myrtle tree in the chiurch yard of Ag. Mercurios (Skopelos Old Town)
Wetland at Loutsa with myrtle gracing the small lake full of water lillies
Wetland at Loutsa with myrtle gracing the small lake full of water lillies

By Sofia, Jul 10 2020 05:17PM

One of my first ambitious projects in propagating Skopelos-endemic plants in the 39steps garden was with capers. The flower of this flora is delicate and beautiful but the plant resilient, growing out of rock cliffs in the face of adverse weather conditions, and yet they still survive!


Initially I carried back from the wilds of the Skopelos seaside countless seedlings. About 50! Only three survived and only after I removed the nutritious garden soil and replaced this with rocks and rubble! Once rooted, this allowed the root to roam deep down and find its own nourishment. One of these migrants gave shade to the garden table for many happy years. The seedling was established by the side of the arbour and, by pruning and support over the years, I gradually trained some fronds on the upward move to form an attractive trunk. Above, at the top of the arbour, a dense leafy crown of fronds full of blooms then spread covering an area 3 sq.m and giving a cool aromatic shade we enjoyed for many years!


I noticed then that ants liked the seed of the ripe caper fruit. I don't mean the buds which we know as capers and which are found on the supermarket shelves; those are caper flower buds, before they bloom. I mean the small cucumber-like fruit with black seeds. Ants, great cleaners of nature, busily carry the seeds into their nest in the stone walls for whatever purpose they need them. An occasional seed would be trapped in the crevice of the stone wall and germinate and grow into a beautiful overhanging caper plant. They do grow on flat ground but don't do so well! I copied the method used by the ants and placed seeds in the walls in designated spots whereupon - at one time - the area of 39steps was caper full!


My over-the-arbour caper is now gone and there are other attractive plants shading that corner of the 39steps garden! Having satisfied my curiosity about the way capers propagate, I now leave ants to do their work. There are now generations of uncontrolled capers seeded from that early experiment in the alleys and gardens of our neighbourhood in the Old Town, often admired and photographed by our visitors.


Incidentally, the whole caper plant is edible. Also, the buds take their time to open into a beautiful bloom but live only one day before forming into the cucumber like fruit. In the time it blooms, it attracts droves of bees and other insects busily gathering pollen and nectar.


The bloom and buds
The bloom and buds
Caper-shaded terrace (as was)
Caper-shaded terrace (as was)
Jenny's caper beneath 39 Steps' stone wall
Jenny's caper beneath 39 Steps' stone wall
An ant-spread caper sprouting from the stone wall
An ant-spread caper sprouting from the stone wall
Outside eating area, now shaded by vine and jasmine
Outside eating area, now shaded by vine and jasmine

By Sofia, Jun 28 2020 11:51AM

Hooray! Four of the self-seeded plants of the Jackman's Rue Blue in my garden survive and thrive! (see previous blog here)


One of them has been planted in its permanent place and does well in a grouping of wild sage, common myrtle and other forna situated at the side of 39steps' stone garden room overlooking the main guest entrance. The grubs of the common swallowtail butterfly are already happily busy defoliating the plant. (and good luck to them!).


The initial transplanting of the five seedlings went smoothly and I enjoyed the mornings when I 'visited' to check the progress of growth. However one morning the sight shocked me: I hadn't counted on a slug onslaught! Most upsetting!


I refused to abandon the defiled seedlings and have continued their care, but was adamant to firmly reinstate Rue Blue in my garden. So I foraged the wilds of Skopelos for the endemic variety, eventually finding a whole sunny bank!


Ruta is somewhat revered and is kept by Skopelos households to symbolize purification and health. I now have two types of this purifying flora to enjoy and for the herb to watch over the endemic plant groupings in the yard. It also appears popular for the flashy swallowtail butterflies to continue to lay their eggs on and for their larvae to denude the plant in which they camouflage to save themselves from the observant eyes of the birds nesting in the area of 39steps!


In general, I find it pleasing to have the spirit of this herb to watch over the household and its inhabitants in these days of strange events!




Groupings of endemic flora in 39Steps' garden
Groupings of endemic flora in 39Steps' garden
The self-seeded seedlings survive!
The self-seeded seedlings survive!
Two varieties of Ruta - the spiky sort is wild
Two varieties of Ruta - the spiky sort is wild
Wild sage and newly-planted Jackmans Rue love being in the same grouping
Wild sage and newly-planted Jackmans Rue love being in the same grouping

By Sofia, Jun 22 2020 04:40PM

As green as the island is this year - abundant with herbs and leafy forage - there is scarcity of fruit. Strange that! Few here would give serious attention to preserving mulberries and Mirabella plums. Normally the glut of these in the spring verges on nuisance; this year they are sparse. Lemons we take for granted. There is an all-around-the-year supply, and of different varieties at that; this year they are sparse.


On my day out for herbs, I was pleased to come across a lone Mirabella plum tree and a couple of sour cherry trees laden with fruit in an otherwise bare fruit orchard. Such is the rarity of the supply situation and coming across these fruit trees that it would have been a sacrilege to turn down obviously a gift of nature.


I've given up making jams long ago, and give preference to honey if a sweetener commodity is needed nowadays. Friends who make jams are much better at it and give me a jar now and then. I am not fond of chutneys and they are the last of preferences for me to make. With a supply of fruit and veg and good choice of spices, recently restocked, they are handy to have to give as gifts.


Having harvested some of the fruit, I stopped on my way at the MONI monastery to ask the kind nun there if she had lemons on her tree. She did and gave me three giant ones which probably equal nine of normal sizes! The fruit and one lemon made 4 kg of chutney: 3kg to add to my cupboard which has jams and chutneys dating back to 2014, and 1kg to give away.


It'll be good to have in my stocks a memory of this shared-by-all-strange 'vintage' of 2020!


Foraged fruit for the chutney
Foraged fruit for the chutney
Culinary and healing herbs, ready to dry
Culinary and healing herbs, ready to dry
Preparing the ingredients
Preparing the ingredients
Bottled and ready to label (2020) then store
Bottled and ready to label (2020) then store
The magnificent view from the Moni monastery towards Alonissos
The magnificent view from the Moni monastery towards Alonissos
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I'm Sofia, 39 Steps' owner and host. This is an occasional blog to keep in touch with my regular guests, give a taste of Skopeliti life and share my experiences of foraging through the summer season

 

Sofia

 

Sofia's 39 Steps Forage Blog

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