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Edible Olives

Istiaia, Evia, Greece

sunny 22 °C

Aside from the olives taken to the press, we kept a few crates full to preserve for eating.

Whoever it was that discovered olives to be edible, certainly deserves some kind of award for perseverance. For anyone who has tried eating a fresh olive, has also - like me - spat it out and ran to the nearest water source to wash their mouth out.

First I am preparing the green olives. Green olives are simply the ones that haven't yet ripened. Because of this, they are even more bitter than they would otherwise be.
To remove the bitterness I had to soak the olives in a tub of water for 10 days, changing the water every day. Before putting them in water, I laid the olives on a stone paver and gave them a tap with a hammer to bruise them. If you tap them hard enough, you can feel a little 'pop' as the flesh breaks. The trick is to achieve this without breaking the actual skin of the olive. An alternative method is to poke a few small holes in each olive with a toothpick. I believe you could soak them without breaking the flesh to produce a firmer olive (my preference for eating), however they may need a longer soaking to prevent the bitter taste.

After this initial process, I transferred the olives to barrels for their next stage of soaking. I made up a solution of salt and water. The scientific method taught to me to measure the amount of salt in the water was;
"When an egg floats, with about the size of a 2euro coin exposed above the water, you have enough salt".
So that's what I did, adding salt bit by bit until my egg floated to the top of the barrel. Just in time too as I was getting quite wet, reaching down to the bottom of the barrel to retrieve the egg. In go the olives as well as a layer of olive oil, 1cm thick, to stop any air from getting to the olives.

On top of this, we added for flavour, a few sticks of dried oregano and a few sliced lemons. Other recipes involve oranges or vinegar and sunflower oil.

Unfortunately I won't be around when these ones are ready to eat - that will have to wait until I have my own olive tree in my own backyard. Only a matter of time.

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Posted by dzito15 08:57 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

AKA Liquid Gold

Istiaia, Evia, Greece

sunny 26 °C

It's that time of year. Pickup trucks are bumping along the dirt and stone roads, loaded up with crates full of olives. In the fields around them, locals and hired labourers are spreading their nets around the trees and beating branches or combing olives from the leaves. There's excitement in the air for the chance to reap the rewards of a years growth.

After filling my fair share of crates I was able to accompany them to the press. Essentially a big tin shed, the operation is running day, night and into the early hours of the morning so it can turn everyones olives into what they call the liquid gold, olive oil. The first thing that hits you when you pull up in the car is the smell, carried on hot air almost as thick as the oil itself. As you walk up to the building the noise grows louder and louder until it drowns out every natural sound.

Outside the entrance, olives are poured into a big square hole in the ground, where a conveyer belt carries them inside and though various apparatuses to wash the olives and remove the leaves. Then a spiralling machine carries them up, 3 metres high and into the top of a mill where the mix of green and black olives are crushed into a dark looking paste.

An underground pipe then pumps the paste to the next machine where hot water is added to separate the oil from the paste. The oil floats to the top, is poured through a filter and then into a can, ready to take home and enjoy. Easy.

Another, slower way of extracting oil is the cold press method. This is the method that was being used at the grove I worked on in Italy. Rather than using heat extraction, the crushed olive paste is spread over multiple circular pads. The pads are stacked on top of each other and pressure is applied from above, squeezing the oil out and allowing it to drip down for collection below the machine.

The cold press method is thought to produce a higher quality oil that is naturally lower in acidity.

Acidity levels are used to classify olive oil. Oil with less than 2% acidity is considered "Virgin olive oil" and oils with less than 0.8% are considered "Extra virgin olive oil".

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Posted by dzito15 08:57 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Sing to your plants

Toplita, Transylvania, Romania

overcast 6 °C

So it's an old wives tale right? Sing to your plants to help them grow. Uh-huh, Sure.

But is there some truth to it? I'm starting to think maybe there is. Please, just hear me out.

I recently saw a Russian documentary called Water.
What was it about, you ask?
Don't be stupid I say, now pay attention.

Scientists believe that when water undergoes certain conditions, it's molecular structure changes. Or something like that. For example, when water is exposed to light, its structure is affected. Exposed to polluted air, it is affected again. This structure stays with the water, as though the water has memory. Quite amazing really.

Diagrams were shown of how the waters make-up appeared under a microscope. It looked significantly different under conditions such as being microwaved, exposed to a mobile phone and amazingly, water that someone had said "thank you" to, or "you disgust me".

Japanese scientist, Dr Masaru Emoto, decided to take this study further. He soaked some rice in three different containers of water and kept them under the same conditions. Then, each day for a month, he said "Thank you" to one container, "You're and idiot" to another, and ignored the third one completely.
At the end of the experiment, the one he thanked, began to ferment and gave off a pleasant aroma. The "idiot" rice turned black and the rice that was ignored completely rotted, showing that neglect causes the greatest harm.

So, the whole point of this? Well plants are made up of about 95% water (And humans 60-80%). So, isn't it conceivable that the same, or similar results could be achieved in plants? (or humans?)
It all sounds quite far fetched, and this may be a dead-end path, but the thing is, this is such an easy theory to test. I will grow two plants under exactly the same conditions, but speak to them differently throughout their growth, just like the japanese scientist. Ah, arigato Doctor Emoto
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(Water that has been exposed to the music of Bach) Water2.tiff
(Water that has been exposed to the music of Mozart)

Posted by dzito15 00:53 Archived in Romania Comments (2)

Love thy soil

Toplita, Transylvania, Romania

semi-overcast 8 °C

Living in the hills above the small village of Toplita, Achim and his girlfriend Alexandria are very conscious of the impact they have on the environment around them. They practice many techniques for sustainable living - some from our grandparents era, which seem to have been forgotten, and some more modern.

In order to care for the soil, we try not to use any soaps or detergents as we know that they will eventually seep into the earth. Good, organic soil is important for growing crops that are not harmful to our bodies. Many effective alternatives to soap can be found all around us. After brewing a coffee for example, the ground beans can be used for washing hands. The coffee contains oils which make your skin soft and is gritty to help scrub toxins from your pores.

For the washing machine, you can buy a rubber ball with little ceramic balls inside. These balls beat the dirt out of the clothes and grind it small enough to flush out the drain pipe, free from any detergent and chemicals. After testing the little device I was surprised to find that it cleans just as effectively as detergent.
We wash all the dishes here in hot water and use a mix of sand and pot ash to scrub the stains.

Nearly all commercially made toothpastes contain fluoride which is harmful to Pineal gland, near the centre of the brain (http://www.crystalinks.com/thirdeyepineal.html). To avoid this, you can make your own toothpaste - grate the rind of lemon, mix with mint and sea salt and crush it all together.

Oh and apparently toilet paper is not necessary. That one might take some getting used to.

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Posted by dzito15 06:49 Archived in Romania Comments (0)

Zakuska - The staple of every Romania pantry

Idicel, Transylvania, Romania

overcast 5 °C

Long winters here in the village of Idicel means a shorter period of time in which you can eat fresh fruit and vegetables from the garden. Like the bears and the squirrels, a great deal of effort must be made to prepare and stockpile for the cold season when the ground can be covered in snow for up to six months.

At Apple hill farm, the cellar is already full with unripe apples and pears which will keep in the cool dark room for many months. Along with potatoes, pumpkins, onions and walnuts, there is no more room for storage.

It seems that many traditional Romanian foods come from the need to preserve their summer surplus for consumption throughout the year. The following traditions are what we have been working on over the past few weeks.

Zakuska - It seems that every family lineage has their own variation on this recipe, but the general result is always the same. An orange, vegetable paste to be kept in jars and used mainly as a spread for sandwiches. It can also be used as a dip, or possibly even a sauce for pasta.
This preserve is always made in large batches which involve hours of peeling, chopping, mashing and cooking over a fire in a large pot or cauldron. First thing in the pot is ground and drained onion which is cooked until translucent. Then in goes a large mash of mild red peppers. These are cooked together with oil until we add either grilled eggplant, beans or carrot - depending on the recipe. Then the extra flavourings are added - tomato juice, bay leaves, salt and pepper. The whole mix is stirred for an hour or more until it reduces down to a paste. The zakuska is put in jars with a very small pinch of crushed aspirin in the top of each to act as a preservative. They are stored in a dark room, under a heavy blanket to cool for 2 days and can then be stored for up to 2 years.

Chutney has been another big feature in the kitchen. We've made many different varieties based on apple or pear. The highlight in this department was most definitely the apple and mint creation. Pickled vegetables feature very commonly on Romanian dinner tables and we have been helping to keep up supplies by jarring cucumbers and onions in a vinegar and salt preserve.

Then there are the drinks. We pressed all the grapes we collected to make a really sweet juice, but this has to be consumed within a couple of days. Otherwise, you can allow it to ferment and become wine for storage over a longer period of time. The most popular drink in rural Romania however is the brandy, known as tzuika. Usually made from apples, pears, plums or cherries, the fruit is left to ferment, then boiled in a backyard distillery, the alcoholic steam collected and kept as a clear, strong tasting liquor. Every romanian household has a cellar full of the stuff and they are all so proud of it that you won't leave a house without at least a couple of samples in your belly.

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Posted by dzito15 15:30 Archived in Romania Comments (1)

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