Thursday, May 29, 2008

aeolian bounty

I've just returned from vacation in Panarea, the tiniest of the Aeolian Islands, just off the North coast of Sicily. The 1 million year old island feels pretty primordial, save for the small village stretched across three small hamlets, which is Greek in aspect (bright white stucco buildings, blue shutters, grapevines and bougainvillea cascading everywhere). Stunningly remote, situated between Lipari and Salina, the most developed of the islands (which are still relatively wild), and Stromboli, a still-active volcano which smokes moodily and sends sparks shooting into the clear night sky, the "traffic" is limited to just one or two boats a day -- especially in the low season. Most of the island is a designated nature reserve: cliffs jutting out of the almost navy blue sea; cacti and caper bushes abound. The island is impressively green in other senses as well: only electric "cars" (really golf carts) and scooters are able to squeeze through the fruit-tree shaded narrow lanes, and most of the inhabitants grow their own vegetable gardens, which sprout up in front and back yards, on terraces, and in between buildings like weeds.  (Pictured above, a néspole tree, bearing fruits that I've never before come across that look a bit like apricots and taste more like papaya and are called "medlars" in english. Also, leaves of a burgeoning fig tree, the fruits plentiful, but sadly, still hard and green.) 
Witness flourishing - and flowering! - zucchini plants.
A clever - and I think chic - way to stake tomatoes. 

A little bit of this and that -- fennel, lettuce, red onions....The soil is dry but rich and the sun is so strong! Sicily is the Southern-most point in Europe -- in fact, much of it is further South than Tunis, Tunisia.

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