Wildflowers in the olive groves of Crete

When I first came to Crete, the seasons surprised me. Rather than being adorned with red, orange, and yellow deciduous trees, fall turned the green of a Pennsylvania spring, and winter filled with more blossoms than a Rocky Mountain summer. Autumn rains revived leaves and grasses, and when skies cleared, the winter sun welcomed ever so many wildflowers.

For sixteen winters now, I have wandered along my neighborhood roads on hills above the sea, then explored the nearby olive groves where the flowers grow. I have learned when and where to find wood sorrel, crocuses, anemones, mandrakes, daisies, orchids, Jerusalem sage, and more species than I can name. I’m not so good at the more practical pastime of identifying and collecting the less showy edible greens that locals gather, boil, and eat with olive oil and lemon juice, but the wildflowers in the olive groves entrance me. The blossoms’ colors, shapes, designs, and patterns attract and distract me, interrupting exercise and delaying work.

More anemones, including one of my favorite buds. In the middle of February, I have counted more than two dozen wildflower species in bloom in and around my neighborhood (20 minutes from downtown Chania, a 15 to 20 minute walk uphill from the sea) on a given day. Later in the month or in March, I expect to see up to fifty or sixty different species, as I have other years. This is a wonderful winter for wildflowers; plentiful rain has provided ideal conditions for them. We are hoping next year’s olive crop will also benefit from the precipitation.

In the Greek fall, winter, and spring, I feel sorry for the tourists who come to Greece only in summer. They miss the fresh cool temperatures, the olive harvest, the spectacular cloudscapes, the snowy mountains, the wildflowers, and the ethereal olive blossoms—the rich seasonal variations of the Greek countryside. They don’t need to miss all of that; Greece always welcomes visitors.

(This story was originally published on Greek Liquid Gold: Authentic Extra Virgin Olive Oil (greekliquidgold.com). See that site for recipes with olive oil, photos from Greece, agrotourism and culinary tourism suggestions, and olive oil news and information.)

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