Under bright blue skies, the fruit trees were flourishing with bright red cherries. As we ambled the lanes of the Greek village of Sartana, we admired the tidy, brightly colored houses, fence rows and thriving kitchen gardens we passed. Chatting idly with a friend in English, we heard a friendly little “hello” from behind a cloud of green leaves. Following this welcoming voice, we met the charming 11-year-old Vova. Vova lives in Sartana with his sister, Irina (21), her husband, Alexander (25), and their children, little Tatiana (1) and Varvara (2.5).
The family was hanging laundry in the patio, as we strolled by. Alexander told us that he is from a Greek family and has lived in Sartana his whole life. He said that, during the harvesting months, the family spends much of their summer tending the garden and preserving the food they grow for the winter months.
With a shy smile and generous nature, Vova, gave us a tour of their garden. They raise cucumbers, potatoes, beets, cabbages (two rotations), onions, squashes, eggplants, carrots and an array of herbs, including parsley, chervil (!) and dill.
Walnut and cherry trees line one end of the garden, the other flanked with bushes of raspberries, gooseberries and currents. Grapevines lace the fence between their patio and garden, where jars were set out for ongoing preservation of the summer’s bounty. Just the day before, the family had made raspberry jam and pickles.
As we explored the garden, Vova picked the perfect gooseberries, passing them to me to enjoy and occasionally popping one into his own mouth too. He described the progress of each vegetable in the garden, thoughtfully describing the desired growing conditions of each plant with impressive insight.
He expressed concern about the season’s meager harvest of apricots and apples. “Last year, people kept all the honey for themselves. So, this year, there are not so many bees. There are not enough to pollinate all the fruit trees.” “But” he said smiling, “this year has been pretty good for berries” he explained. “The raspberries are much sweeter than last year.”