|The seasons in Kamilari|
In Kamilari the spring season starts with the end of the rainy season – sometime between February and April. The main spring farming activity this time of the year is getting the ground clear, planting a big variety of vegetables for the summer season and harvesting the spring vegetables. Artichokes and broad beans (κουκιά) are the main farming objects of Kamilari in spring. In the area also lettuce, cabbage, peas, lentils, fava beans, field beans and chick peas, onions and spring onions are harvested. This time of the year the area is also covered by wildflowers: poppies, daisies, camomile, iris (Iris cretica), gladiola (Gladiolus italicus), tulips (Tulipa orphanidea), hyacinth (Muscari commosum) and various species of Cretan orchids.
The autumn season starts in September/ October and we harvest mainly grapes, pomegranate, quinces, potatoes, silver beet, beetroots, walnuts and almonds now. It has been reported that in the 17th century there were 40 kinds of "Cretan grapes" (like Kotsifali grape) and Cretan wine making has a long history since wine was certainly being made by the Minoans before 1600 BC. Autumn in Kamilari is also the traditional "raki season", where many Cretans produce a traditional grape based liquor (in the rest of Greece better known as Tsipouro or Tsikoudia). The Cretan raki is made from the mash of the wine production, the distilled grape pomace. It's a clear liquid with 30-40 volume percent of alcohol. We celebrate this traditional production with friends and family in the place of production, the so called "Kazani". The taste of a good raki or Tsikoudia is more similar to an Italian Grappa than to a Turkish raki.
Winter season starts with the rainy season in November or December. This time of the year we gather lemon, mandarins, oranges, still some quinces and salads, spinach, cabbage and wild greens or herbs, that all Cretans are accustomed to gathering in the hills. This huge variety of vegetables still known as "horta" today is: wild artichoke, asparagus, chicories and endives, radish, wild leeks, wild mustard, saw thistles, purslane, vetches, okra, and many of the bulbs still prized as healthy vegetables.
Used in pies, salads or horta, the greens may have protective properties that are not yet fully understood and are one of the bases of the worldwide known healthy Cretan diet. The olive harvest period also is in winter: it starts in November and lasts till March. The olives are ready to be picked when the fruit is 3/4 ripe. This means that it should be purple or close to black. Nothing is more characteristic of Crete than the millions of olive trees that grow in valleys and mountainous areas. Cretans have been cultivating the olive tree and have been using olive oil since 3500 BC during the early Minoan period, as archaeological findings have proved. From the reports from the 17th century we also learnt that there were more than 40 varieties of olive.
All year round we gather honey, tomatoes, peppers and zucchini from our garden. We never use any chemicals in anything that we grow in our gardens. Many of us also grow our own chicken, rabbits, sheep and pigs and produce our own meat from our home grown animals.
Pigs are mostly killed before Christmas as it is a typical Christmas tradition to have pork in salt & vinaigre ("Apaki", a typical Cretan recipe) and smoked sausage, whereas sheep are more likely killed for the traditional Easter meal.