Aegean in the Overberg
Our delightfully quirky, country cowgirl cum artist has just returned to Baardskeerdersbos from a postcard perfect holiday in Greece.
On a recent trip to Santorini, Greece, I was struck by the traditional way of life on this tiny island. People are working the earth pretty much as they have for centuries. The most inspiring part of it was remembering that we too have this incredible Mediterranean climate here in the Overberg; dry, windy summers and wet winters.
The first thing one notices are the vines. They are not trellised like ours here but are trained to twist around their own stems, keeping close to the ground to form low hollow dome shapes that essentially shade and protect themselves against the heat. Crops such as grapes and tomatoes, spinach, herbs and fruit trees are not watered as water is so precious on this volcanic island. However, fresh produce has a fabulously sweet taste, not diluted but intensely favourful. The traditional vin santo wine is a little like our muscadel and it is wonderful to amble through old cobbled winding walkways, sampling each different household's homemade berry or fruit wines. Everyone from grandmothers to young people make wine!
I stayed in the town Oia where there are no cars; just lovely narrow pathways in amongst the informal arrangements of the traditional hyphoskapa homes carved into the volcanic rock, with vaulted roofs, narrow fronts and considerable depth. Everyone seems to have a tin or a pot or small garden where her grows basil, origanum, rosemary and parsley. Strange, sweet, crinkled little tomatoes flourish in the tiniest bit of soil sometimes hanging precariously over the edges of the cliffs. All herb pots and tomatoes are close at hand to help flavour the famous delights in even the simplest tavernas, coupled with fava beans (split peas), horta (steamed spinach) and the most amazing feta served in thick slices (varying slightly in taste depending on the farm of origin) and of course, lashings of olive oil. How fantastic that we too can grow many of these in our climate!
This got me thinking about the famous Dittany tea, which has a lovely slightly origanum-like flavor and the mountain tea, which tastes like our salvia or mountain sage tea. The collection of this herb for medicinal tea was considered a very dangerous occupation for the men who risked life and limb to climb precarious rock faces where the plant grows wild. They were called erondades (love seekers) as the herb was said to symbolize love and be a highly prized aphrodisiac.
Here in the Overberg, we too have wonderful medicinal herbs and plants growing wild; Buchu (Agothosma betulina), wild dagga (Leonotis leonorus), honeybush tea (Cyclopia genestoides), vrouebossie (Geranium incanum) and wild olive or olienhout (Olea Europaea) which help in the treatment of coughs, colds, digestive complaints, kidney disorders, liver problems, blood pressure and menstrual pains to name but a few.
Traveling is amazing and I love it. Calling a place like the Overberg home is awesome.
Liz van der Berg