Updated: 01/08/17 : 09:36:39
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August Gardening News from Klaus Laintenberger

Dear Fellow Gardeners,
It seems strange to write a gardening newsletter from Greece. 

We are in the most stunningly beautiful southern part of mainland Greece – on the Peloponnese peninsula’s middle finger – the Mani.  The strange thing is that apart from Greek tourists there are very few ‘foreign tourists’.  There are nearly empty beaches with crystal clear waters and the most delicious food.

The Mani peninsula is steeped in history with their amazing villages of tall strong square tower houses.  The terraces on which food crops were grown which have supported a much larger population a long time ago are now all planted in olive trees which are irrigated, however the majority of terraces lie abandoned.  All the hard work of the ancestors crumbling away slowly.  Despite the delicious food which is available even in the most basic tavernas – I haven’t seen any vegetable garden in the first week of the holidays.

I really didn’t imagine that Greek people have also given up on growing their own food and leaving it to commercial growers especially with such a heritage of food culture.  Why not utilise these amazing terraces, collect rainwater and grow the most amazing range of food crops imaginable.
I’m beginning to feel like the German tourist in Heinrich Boell’s famous fable about the fisherman and a tourist.

The Tale of the fisherman and the tourist
A tourist looks on a most idyllic picture: a fisherman dozing in the sun in his rowing boat that he has pulled out of the waves which come rolling up the sandy beach. The tourist's camera clicks and the fisherman wakes. The tourist asks: “The weather is great and there's plenty of fish, so why are you lying around instead of going out and catching more?”

The fisherman replies: “Because I caught enough this morning.”

“But just imagine,” the tourist says, “you could go out there three or four times a day and bring home three or four times as much fish! And then you know what could happen?” The fisherman shakes his head. “After a year you could buy yourself a motorboat,” says the tourist. “After two years you could buy a second one, and after three years you could have a cutter or two. And just think! One day you might be able to build a freezing plant or a smoke house. You might eventually even get your own helicopter for tracing shoals of fish and guiding your fleet of cutters, or you could buy your own trucks to ship your fish to the capital, and then . . .”

“And then?” asks the fisherman.

“And then”, the tourist continues triumphantly, “you could spend time sitting at the beachside, dozing in the sun and looking at the beautiful ocean!” The fisherman looks at the tourist: “But that is exactly what I was doing before you came along!”

 
A few days on ....
We stay in the small town of Leonidia in the Tsakonia region of the Pelepponnese.  This is surrounded by a very fertile loamy soil.  And here I completely change my mind again.  We drove through an area with hundreds of small market gardens each having a few polytunnels as well as self-built greenhouse structures and beautiful small outdoor plots with crops grown in straight rows and kept very neatly.  This area stretches on for miles between the town of Leonidia and the sea. 

This is a vegetable gardener’s paradise with such a wonderful diversity of crops, including citrus fruit, peaches, nectarines, grapes as well as tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, salads etc.  The most special plant of this particular area, however, is the aubergine (eggplant).  This is a real speciality in this area and they have a special variety of eggplant. It’s the Tsakonian eggplant which produces long lilac fruits with white stripes.

 It is so special and unique to this area that it has been awarded a Protected Designation of Origin status.  The Tsakonian eggplant is sweet and does not need to be salted before cooking to draw out its bitter juices.  The flesh is of a velvety texture and very tender.
I would love to get hold of a few seeds and try them out in Ireland.  The temperature here though is constantly in the mid thirties and even at night it’s well over 20 degrees. The plants  might get a little shock in Leitrim but who knows.
 
Events:
23rd August 2017
Heritage of Kitchen Gardens – Co. Waterford, Dungarvan Library 7.30-9.00pm
Talk about the history of the Kitchen Garden in Ireland and Waterford by organic horticulturist and writer Klaus Laitenberger
Contact details:  bguest@waterfordcouncil.ie or 0761102668

Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th September 2017

Ballymaloe Garden Festival

“On Saturday 2 and Sunday 3 September the Ballymaloe Garden Festival will take place on the grounds at Ballymaloe House and is a weekend for garden lovers, seasoned experts, late bloomers and foodies alike.  There will be a variety of talks, demonstrations, entertainment and shopping offers a bumper crop for garden lovers, seasoned experts, late bloomers, families and foodies. Among the highlights of this year's festival are two talks by Alan Power, head gardener at the world famous Stourhead in Wiltshire.  Mr Power is a Cork native, regular guest on the BBC's Gardener's World, an expert on the landscape designer Capability Brown and the presenter of a podcast series on National Trust Gardens. 
Irish garden legend Helen Dillon will speak about 'Moving House - Only the best to come', focussing on the plants she simply couldn't leave behind when moving to her new, smaller garden in Co. Dublin. 
Darina Allen will launch her latest book, 'Grow and Cook', followed by questions and answers at 3pm on Saturday
Klaus Laitenberger of Green Vegetable Seeds and Ballymaloe gardener Susan Turner will lead organic vegetable walks in Ballymaloe's Walled Garden exploring 'Weeds, Pests and Diseases'
For more information look at:
http://ballymaloefestivals.ie/events/ballymaloe-garden-festival
 
Sunday 12th November 2017
Theme: Expert talks around the topic “Clever & Creative Gardening” with Jim Cronin and myself in Ennis, Co Clare.
For more information contact the organiser Carmen Cronin on: cc@carmencronin.ie