Arcadia is the main growing region for Greek garlic! Arcadia is a destination well worth visiting – not only for its superb garlic.
In one of my first journeys through the valleys of Peloponnese the tavern owners used to serve me a delicate cream which we know very well everywhere in Greece. But though grandma was a mastercook in preparing Skordalia, this one I have tasted on Peloponnese was extraordinary and in some way more creamy that the one I used to eat in Macedonia. What makes the difference, I have asked around in Arcadia. “Ine poli efkolo pedi mu” (its very simple my child) answered me an old women. We mostly use potatoes and not bread or walnut as you know it from the North! This little fact has been a very important discovery and explains very precisely that people create their own meals in contrast to what is available, vegetables and food that grows and is cultivated next by.
But how did garlic, the smell of which even the gods found so unbearable that no believer was allowed to enter their temple after eating garlic, reach Arcadia, that musical kingdom of the art of pastoral singing? Quite simply – it didn’t! The idyllic Arcadia, where cultured shepherds whiled away the time waiting for the return of the Golden Age by means of noble poetic competition, is purely a fiction of Virgil created around 40 B.C. in imitation of the pastoral poetry written a good 250 years earlier by the Greek poet, Theocritus. It exists only in books and in paintings. Not does its name have anything to do with the plateau in the center of the Peloponnese area, which the traveler and historian Pausanias still described as rough and impassable even around A.D. 170. At the shrine on the top of Mount Lycaeus he issued dark intimations about the human sacrifices that had been made in the pass in honor of the god worshiped there, Zeus Lycaeus, Zeus the wolf god. The view from here far into the region of Arkadia is still worth the climb today.
This real Arcadia, however, is the main growing region for Greek garlic. Here Allium sativum finds its preferred growing conditions: lots of sun and an extremely dry climate. The long, narrow, gray-green leaves and the white to pink sterile flowers of the spherical inflorescence of this hardy plant that grow to a height of about 3 feet (1 meter) must have died away completely before a start can be made on harvesting the garlic bulbs under the soil. About 2.7 million US tons (2.5 million tons) of garlic are produced each year all over the world, and if properly stored (dry and well ventilated) it can keep for months.
An appetizer of fresh young garlic preserved in oil and vinegar is an Arcadian specialty.
1 lb /500 g stale white bread
4 cloves of garlic
1 scant cup/200 ml Greek extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Soak the white bread, then squeeze out well. Blend the bread and garlic cloves in a mixer at the lowest setting, gradually adding the olive oil and lemon juice. Arrange on a plate and serve as an appetizer or as an accompaniment to fish and meat dishes. Mashed potato can also be used instead of bread as the basic ingredient for this dish.