Monday, February 4, 2013

Get me to the Grove "by VisitGreece Blog"

Greece’s sacred olive harvest is just around the corner, says June Field!
We’re all fanatic about olive oil these days, but ever wondered how it got on your plate?
Time to get amongst the olive groves and witness the harvest. Come mid October, the Greek countryside comes alive as farmers haul out their nets, and lay them out under their precious trees. The harvest lasts through the winter months of November to January, as an exodus of farm hands can be seen coaxing the ripe green fruit with combs on a long stick, while others use hand held motorised rakes.
This winter, the subject of Greece’s sacred oil, has never been more pivotal. As the economic crisis continues, tens of thousands of Greeks are leaving the cities, returning to their ancestral villages in search of jobs to support themselves until the tourists arriving in spring.
While in Crete- Greece’s largest and most southerly island – olives are on everyone’s mind. With over 1.5 million trees and a balmy year round climate, Cretan farmers boast the highest percentage of extra virgin oil, and reputedly the tastiest in the world.
Almost every dish in Crete has at least a few spoonfuls of oil, from the delicious ‘magierevma’ or oven baked dishes like moussaka or giant beans called ‘gigantes’ to cake recipes, or simply drizzled over a wobbly sheeps milk cheese called mizithra.
Amazingly, the average person in Greece consumes around 25 kilos per person (compared to 0.5 in northern Europe or the US). And, Cretans use more oil in their healthy diet than the rest of Greece; explaining their long life spans and lack of heart problems.
Once the fruit is three quarters ripe, it’s time to harvest. Bright and early, around 7am the teams of workers, families and recruits head out into the grove with rods, poles or rakes. The fruit drops on to the nets beneath the trees, ready to be collected. Burlap sacks laid out nearby are filled and loaded up in nearby trucks and taken to the local mills, as fast as possible.
It’s important that the olives are treated carefully, not bruised or left out as it affects the quality, or acidity of the oil. If it’s rainy or windy, the harvest pauses. Grey green leaves glisten brilliantly in the winter sun. Like living art, gnarled trunks peek out from swaying branches groaning with fruit. Those olives are treated like precious cargo.

A break for a picnic lunch takes place in the groves (called ‘agrotima’ or ‘eleonas’) joined by women and children often, then back to the hard grind. The final run to the mill happens around 4pm when the light begins to fade. Full sacks are taken to the mill, at the end of each day for processing.
Each farmer has his sacks labelled carefully, while the olives are loaded into the production line. Firstly the olives are cleaned with water, their leaves and stems removed in a feeding hopper. Next, the olives are pressed, and this resulting oil is called the ‘extra virgin’ which Greece excels at. Over 70% of all oil and olives produced in Greece are extra virgin, or top quality.
The farmer waits for his own oil to emerge, a thick pungent grassy smelling green liquid. Homer called it ‘liquid gold’.
Most farmers will store their oil in a metal tank, and later in dark coloured bottles (the light can reduce quality) but never plastic.
This will go on for several days, depending how many trees or groves they own. There are over 4,600 mills around the country; the majority of them concentrated in Crete, and the Peloponnese.
The commercial growers sell off their oil to the big brands, who distribute it around Greece, while a large slice of it goes off to Italy, remarkably, to be rebottled and branded for export around the world.

This year, the sacred olive groves of goddess Athena could grab a star role in Crete’s year round tourism. Demand for agrotourism is on the increase, and next month a six day tour of the Cretan olive harvest is already being booked up by travellers as far away as Singapore and South Africa.
Eleonas Agrourism resort in Crete, has created an ‘olive harvest tour’ starting in the spring water capital of Zaros Crete, along an emerging slow food and wine trail in the island’s hinterland.
Eleonas’ entrepreneurial owner, Manolis Saridakis is passionate about the environment and the surrounding region of Mt Psiloritis national park.
The locals of Zaros are holding on tight to their local way of life. For them it means growing most of their own food, rearing their own farm animals and sourcing food for the hotel within less than 5 kilometres. ‘We know we have a piece of paradise here. We are 99% full most of the year, our guests tell us that our whole set up is pretty magical.” This influx of gourmet travellers will bring vital spend to the rural economy.
In a recent report, US consulting firm McKinsey predicting that olives can pull Greece out of recession, with a little more organisation and control of the industry. A small country of 11 million people and 5 million workers, it could go back to its ancient roots, literally and grow again.

For more information / images contact: June Field
+ 44 (0) 208 940 9527

See the article at the official source: Blog

Crisis cultivates initiative at Cretan resort

By Elis Kiss

So you thought that the Greek tourism season would be over by now? Not according to the Saridakis family, who are now awaiting the arrival of this year’s first guests for their hands-on fall/winter vacation packages.

At the Eleonas agritourism resort in the village of Zaros, on the slopes of UNESCO classified Mount Psiloritis in southern Crete, fall and a part of the winter season will be creatively busy, as the “Made in Crete” programs, cooking and olive harvesting courses, debut at the end of October and run to March next year.

From “mezes” and Cretan meat platters to collecting olives in the Saridakis groves, the allure of the Mediterranean diet will be combined with the opportunity to gain firsthand knowledge of seasonal local produce, not to mention take part in wine and raki tastings.

There’s something to be said about collecting rosemary and sage from the herb garden and fresh eggs from the farmyard before gathering in the kitchen to prepare familiar dishes such as moussaka, but also signature local platters including “sfougato me vrouves” (omelet with wild mustard greens) and baby lamb with famed “stamnagathi” (spiny chicory). At Eleonas, all the ingredients are either homegrown on the family farm or sourced within a 5-kilometer range.
Both the cooking and olive harvest courses have already drawn interest and bookings from visitors in France, the Netherlands and Britain.

“So far, they all seem to be interested in the Cretan diet and the production of olive oil, for instance,” said Manolis Saridakis. “It’s about recipes passed on from grandmother to daughter through time. It’s about taking your time cooking, about slow food, even when frying potatoes in olive oil.”

Ever since establishing the Eleonas resort seven years ago, the Saridakis family have been taking advantage of their natural resources and kitchen skills by offering a variety of cooking lessons for guests. The Made in Greece packages, however, are now providing a more organized platform for this kind of activity, while at the same offering a much-needed opportunity to extend the tourism season -- the prime reason behind the new Eleonas venture.

“Unfortunately, fewer Greeks are going on vacation these days and there is no aid coming from anywhere else,” said Saridakis.

Though the idea of the cooking courses and olive harvesting had been planted well before the current crisis, the need to reach out through new projects has taken on a new urgency in the last couple of years. According to Saridakis, although the last summer season was a deemed a good one, 95 percent of the resort’s clientele flew in from Britain.

Read more at the official source : 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Eleonas: a stunning mountain retreat with glorious home-cooked Cretan cuisine

In the mountains of southern Crete, just off the sleepy village of Zaros…amidst olive groves, grape vines and wild mountain herbs lies Eleonas - a stunning agro-tourism settlement of traditional mountain cottages. Before this trip, I had never been to one of these eco-tourism retreats before, hence I was a little curious if the remote isolation of such a place would be tedious or liberating. But after just a single breath of the rosemary and sage scented mountain air and that first glimpse of the dramatic rocky peaks of Mount Psiloritis in the backdrop against the open blue skies, I felt a million miles away from the usual chaos and realities of urban life.

The brainchild of owner Manolis Saridakis, Eleonas’ traditional stone cottages centre around their superb taverna and tranquil resort pool. They run their own farm on-site… growing their own fruits, herbs and veges… producing their own extra virgin olive oil… even keeping lambs, goats and chickens in feed. Guests are welcome to partake in a range of agro-activities from the feeding of animals to hands-on cooking lessons. For adventurists, there are a number of hikes and biking routes of varying difficulty in the surrounding area which feature towering gorges and serene lakes. And if you have your own wheels (a pre-requisite if you want to properly explore and take in the raw beauty of the island), some of the Crete’s most magnificent beaches on it’s South Coast are just an hours drive away. All in all, it’s the perfect escape from your usual over-crowded, commercialised break.

Read more at the official source : - Best discoveries of 2012: readers' tips

We are very proud and thankful for this reader tip that written at The Guardian Editorial:
Official Source

Eleonas Cottages, Crete
This was the most unassuming, beautiful, restful spot one could imagine. An hour from the airport through hilly countryside and quiet villages takes you to this wonderfulplace in the middle of Crete, among mountains and olive groves with the most amazing views from your bedroom balcony. Eleonas is a treasure – peaceful and with amenities like aircon, swimming pool and fantastic Cretan traditional cooking. They love children, which was a bonus and are helpful with anything you need. It's great value too, as you can book per night. There is also a lovely lake within walking distance, and quaint village with tavernas for a local treat. 

+30 28 940 31238,

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Agrotourism in Crete with Eleonas Cottages

Famous worldwide for its culture,  vibrant lifestyle, diverse landscape, gastronomy, hospitality and much more Greece has so much to offer to every traveler, but more importantly the island of Crete invites you to discover the areaʼs magic in Eleonas cottages. Grasp the chance you have to explore the islandʼs  gastronomical suggestions by choosing amongst a variety of delicious domestic restaurants that will make you love Mediterranean cuisine and picturesque taverns which  will give you a taste of  the rustic traditional cretan food style in the heart of Zaros. One thing is for sure: that in Zaros the sky is the limit when it comes to the chances you the activities offered to you! Starting with a visit to the lake, you can enjoy your coffee while gazing at its blue green waters, feed the ducks and walk around the lake and enjoy the beautiful scenery and if you are an action lover, the Agiou Nikolaou canyon is the ideal choice for you. Savor the unforgettable flavor of fresh fish and homemade cheese while in your holidays in Zaros and explore the real meaning of agrotourism in Crete, ecotourism in Crete and in general rural tourism in Crete an experience that you will never forget. 

Rest assured that when visiting Zaros, you will be magnetized by its diverse beauty and amazed by the uncountable opportunities offered to you, to explore nature and not only see but more importantly feel its beauty! Eleonas cottages in Zaros, situated on a peaceful mountain slope, surrounded by olive oil trees create a magnificent landscape that no visitor could ever forget. In is not just the tranquility of the place since it is with no doubt the perfect getaway but this landscape is the ideal destination for nature lovers that would love to practice agrotourism in Crete and more specifically in one of the most amazing parts of the island, Zaros.  The areaʼs versatile broadness is definitely a unique lifetime experience for everyone since it covers every taste offering the visitor top accommodation facilities, a rich breakfast, uncountable chances to explore the areaʼs stunning landscape and even the chance to take cooking and cheese making lessons and have the chance to participate in the actual process of cheese making and find out so much more about this exciting process but more importantly about themselves! So if you feel like you wish to learn new exciting things, do as many activities as you possibly can  from animal feeding to mountain bike  or trekking  and looking for the place to make your dream come true then Eleonas cottages in Zaros is giving you the chance of your life!

Friday, November 30, 2012

MADE IN CRETE Food and Wine trails announce new tours starting October

NEW! CRETE’S FIRST COOKERY SCHOOL opens at ELEONAS Resort, Zaros.Want to learn the secrets of the healthiest eating on earth? Now it’s just a click away. Live like a local with Greece’s hottest gastro travel team at ELEONAS resort, located in Crete’s prettiest rural heartland, on a six day cookery course, with guided forays along our own Greek Slow Food Trail.

The ELEONAS Cretan Cookery School offers hands-on cookery courses in Zaros, Greece, amidst the UNESCO National Park of Mt Psiloritis. Our daily classes teach small groups about regional dishes, local award winning organic wines, and the seasonal, natural artisan produce which underpins the famous Cretan diet. The perfect cooking holiday in Greece combined with a dazzling slice of Cretan lifestyle.

Dates: Six day courses at ELEONAS resort – number one b&b on TripAdvisor - from 29th October to 31 March from only EUR 1,680 per person inclusive of six nights private accommodation, airport transfers, all tuition, meals, wine and six guided excursions (flights extra).

Eleonas Cookery Course

Getting There: Heraklion airport, Crete has direct flights from most major European cities May to October. Daily scheduled flights via Athens Eleftherios Venizelos airport operate year round (from 130 Euro return) connecting with domestic airlines Aegean Air, Olympic Airlines or Sky Express.

Ferries from Heraklion Port on daily direct schedule from Piraeaus Athens.

Press trip by June Field, Three Sixty Degrees, 


Get more info for the cookery course - programme