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Friday, 7 May 2010

Avronies (Αβρονιές)

Here's an unusual green that is very popular in Crete at the moment. It grows in the wild, and as yet no one is cultivating it. We can find it growing in our orange groves, but only in small quantities, which is why I usually buy a bunch before spring is out, when it won't be available after that.


Avronies are an asparagus-like spear which grow very long and spindly. They aren't easily spotted because they snake along the earth, giving themselves away by their slightly furry tip which sticks up like grass. Only the tender parts are used (the remaining part of the plant is too woody), and their taste is rather bitter, which is why avronies are usually boiled to remove their bitterness before being used in a meal.

avronies tsimoulia omelette
After I boiled the avronies (below, left), I had to discard some of them because they were still too woody and stalky to eat. The tsimoulia (bright green in the top photo) were simply washed (they were tender enough). 
boiled avronies avronies tsimoulia omelette

I've presented this dish before, but I think it's worthy of a second mention. It's mainly a forager's specialty, and it's usually cooked with eggs, like an omelette. I haven't changed the basic recipe from the last time I made it, but because I didn't have enough avronies, I also added some more edible greens called tsimoulia, the tender flowery stalks of the cabbage plant, which grow once the cabbage head has been cut off the base of the thick stalk.

Thick asparagus spears of the type available in Western supermarkets are now also available, grown in Northern Greece; both the white and green varieties are sold in Crete. They have a different taste from avronies, but they can easily replace the wild variety in the omelette I made.

mushroom asparagus sautee
Conventional asparagus, now grown in Northern Greece, sauteed with mushrooms and onions, makes a delicious vegetable-based filling for an omelette.

I used Greek asparagus in the meal I prepared on the 5th of May, as I waited for my husband to come home at 3pm as he usually does when he is on day shift. I laid the table at his usual place, taking care to fill a pitcher with cool water because it was a very warm day and he would come home feeling parched.

on the 5th of May
The table was set expectantly...

My husband came home on time and I served him the meal p. He picked up the remote control and asked me which channel the news was on at this hour. Even though he usually sits down to eat his midday meal at about this time, he can never remember which one it is. I reminded him that there wold be no TV news that day, as there was no school for the children, because the teachers and the journalists were on strike. So we didn't watch any TV that day. While three people were being pulled dead out of a burning building, we were having lunch, unaware of what was going on that day.

Those people would also have been getting ready to return home, after their work was done. They would have been going home at this hour to a similar seat at their table, and someone would have been waiting for them to come home. For the three who died in the bank fire, their place at the midday table would remain empty that day and forever from now on. I will remember this for many days to come. Whenever I lay the midday table, this thought will creep into my head like a disease, and it won't go away easily, unless I find a way to numb my mind on purpose.

The asparagus and mushroom omelette is the last meal I cooked since that day. As the saying goes, tomorrow is another day. Maybe it will be better. In any case, life continues.

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