In Western Culture we are taught that there are Four Seasons. Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall. But if you start paying attention to the weather and the land around you, you will soon realise that your surroundings in late June, which is the official beginning of Summer in the Northern Hemisphere, are very different from your surroundings in Late August. The temperatures are different, the colours are different and the produce the land gives us is very different.
Living in Greece, we are fortunate enough to feel the flow of the seasons. We can take our cues from the weather and the farmers markets around us. If we stop defining the Seasons based on the calendar, but start looking at nature around us, we can easily discern Six Seasons.
We can distinctly feel Winter between December and late February, with its cold, dark nights and low temperatures. The farmers markets have little green and we turn to root vegetables like beetroots, or brassicas like Brussels sprouts and broccoli. On the bright side, it’s citrus season, where oranges, lemons and all their cousins are in peak. Our cooking echoes this mood with soups and slow cooked roasts warming us up from within.
As soon as March comes around, the flowers start to bud, and rain is plentiful. It’s Early Spring and new potatoes, asparagus, peas and fresh salads start showing up. Soups give way to salads with pulses, the first BBQs get smoky and our plates turn green together with the fields.
As April gives way to May, so does the colder weather, everything is vibrant and green. This is Spring, the air carries with it the scent of blooming Wisteria and we shed our warmer layers. It’s the fleeting season to enjoy strawberries, fresh onions, artichokes and string beans. We enjoy vegetable stews and our pasta dishes come alive with fresh vegetables.
Early Summer shows its charming face with warmer breezes and drier weather in mid-June, stop what you’re doing and go get some cherries. Zucchini and eggplants are plentiful, early apricots and watermelons show up too, but hold out until August for their peak. This is the season where fruit features prominently in our cooking, in smoothies and in salads. Our meals are lighter and more spontaneous.
The scene changes by mid-August, Late Summer brings with it high temperatures, the sun bleaches everything from its colour and the world around us smells like basil. Finally, we can enjoy ripe tomatoes and fresh sweet corn. Peaches, melons, figs and grapes are at their peak. You don’t even need to “cook” for these precious few weeks, you can enjoy everything as it is, at a lazy pace in the mid-day shade of a fig tree. Look out for the fresh pistachios from Aegina during late September, they don’t last long.
Fall is around the corner, starting in mid-October and the world starts turning orange. The pumpkins start showing up, apple season is finally here, and fresh walnuts and almonds are back. Olives get picked which means early season olive oil. Wild mushrooms and chestnuts inspire warm risottos, as the year goes full circle and we prepare for Winter again.