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• The cost of going green in Greece.

By A.E. STALLINGS  [Poetry Magazine] – Greeks spend a greater portion of their income on produce than any other European nationality. Television crews reporting on inflation and the crisis often focus on the farmers’ markets. The parsley index, I call it. Under the drachma, a bunch of parsley would run you a hundred drachmas. Now it is fifty Euro cents. That’s a seventy-five percent markup once you convert the currency.

If you drive out of Athens into the countryside on fine spring or autumn days, you’ll see (mostly) older women, bending with surprising nimbleness at their sturdy, matronly waists, harvesting wild greens into plastic supermarket sacks. While few of the thousands of wildflowers will be known as anything but louloudi (flower), every little edible green weed poking up out of the ground—covered generally with the word chorta, as in horticulture—will have its own name, often more than one, depending on the region. For something to have its own name, it needs to be useful. And the bounty of the Greek countryside has often been all that has stood between people and starvation. During the famine of 1941–1942 under the German occupation, when some three hundred thousand people died of starvation in the greater Athens area alone, what kept many people alive was a knowledge of wild bulbs and greens, of knowing that even the ubiquitous and humble nettle is nutritious, and tasty, when properly prepared. Nowadays, upscale neo-traditional tavernas often boast of unusual wild greens alongside their cultivated cousins. One memorable meal we had in the village of Lefkes on the island of Paros featured, alongside fried snails and garlic dip (skordalia), a mess of wild asparagus just harvested from the mountain.

It’s true that you will never catch a Homeric hero eating his greens…

Continued at Poetry Magazine | More Chronicle & Notices.

 

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