Adventures with organic farmers in Crete, Greece

Just before Christmas, my friend Stella invited me to visit Vasso's beautiful organic garden of many colors. Vasso is an extraordinary biodynamic farmer. Her plants were thriving - cultivated with love and deep knowledge of their needs - after decades of working on this relationship. Our tour of her farm with Stella was another fascinating lesson in understanding heirloom seeds and their relationship with the soil, climate, and the farmer.

I wanted lay down in between rows of herbs and enjoy the aromatherapy. I wouldn't even know how to begin to take care of this vast field of food requiring constant love and attention. So many people are waiting for farmers like Vasso to provide the real and nutritious food they want and need every day.

Vasso gave me a precious Christmas gift – a colorful bundle of beets, lettuces, onions, herbs, and broccoli straight from her lovingly nurtured land.

Back at home, I proceeded to plan menus to enjoy these perishable gifts - what to eat soon, what I can parboil or incorporate into a soup and freeze, etc. The flavors were amazing! I've always loved broccoli, but Vasso's broccoli was so sweet and delicate, I savored every bite with a touch of fresh lemon juice and Stella's gorgeous olive oil, direct from trees to the mill last month. Cultivating and harvesting olives is a very hard job, so I savor every drop.

Stella is an agronomist, organic farmer-heirloom seed saver and teacher. She has taught hundreds of our visiting students over the years during our CCS seminars - a highlight of their learning experience! Stella and her colleagues have cultivated and saved heirloom seeds for years and give them away to farmers like Vasso.

Stella also devoted years to organizing an important heirloom seed exchange festival here in Crete. That's how we met and we've been friends ever since. She's a pioneer in this crucial field. We've interviewed Stella and her colleagues many times since 2016 for our documentary still in progress, Heritage Protectors. Filming agricultural practices requires conveying a farmer's progression of the process long before the end result appears on our plates. The details of scheduling all of that could be another documentary.

My usual holiday conversations with family and friends in the states and around the world include “what's on your menu?” When describing my menu last week, I realized that everything on my plate was cultivated by my friends, gathered directly from their farms. But it's not just a farm visit - it's a fun day of talking about life and the beauty of the moon and stars in the sky.

My Gift of Christmas Salad recipe was delectable organic vegetables from Vasso and organic olive oil, vinegar, raisins, and oranges from dear Stella. This year, I'm thankful for the hard work and dedication of dear friends providing precious ingredients for my menu every day.

Happy Holidays and New Year to All!

Nikki Rose and the Crete's Culinary Sanctuaries Educational Network and Documentary Film Crew