Here in north Cyprus, we are fortunate with what nature has to offer. Here are wild growing thyme, mint, marjoram, oregano and sage. Rosemary is also widespread but has probably been spread by humans. There are plenty of old overgrown gardens here.
After the autumn rains, the “white” mushroom which I think is a fantastic musseron grow. After a good winter (lots of rain) it is possible to find wild mushrooms. A little later in the spring, in about the beginning of March, you can find the “red” mushroom. I thought a lot about what it could be for kind of mushroom. On one occasion I accompanied my husband on a mushroom expedition and the only explanation was that yes there is a red mushroom and when you break it, it will drip red juice. Ok I thought, and walked away with my basket. My husband knew exactly what he was looking for, so he was soon gone. I found several mushrooms but not the red one. I suddenly spotted a mushroom I very well knew from home from Sweden. A Blodriska! How surprised I was, I did not expect this. But this mushroom has not the colour red, its more orange. I put in all mushrooms I had found in the basket, cause such an unexpected treat, you can not just leave.
When we met again at the car I explained that I had not found a red mushroom, but I had found a great bargain anyway, and so I showed the Blodriska that I had in my hand. He was delighted and exclaimed that it’s the “red” mushroom you found! Yes, so now you know that it grows good blodriskor here too.
The “white” mushrooms are good canned and you can use them as a part of a mezze meal.
When the mushroom season is over the wild asparagus season starts and we can gorge in asparagus dishes.
The wild asparagus is slimmer and slightly bitter in taste, in contrast to the growed variety, which I love. However, many people don’t like this, and in that case the tip is to put the asparagus in water for a couple hours, then the bitterness will disappear .
There are two varieties, the one called Ayrelli who grows more towards the sea and the other who is called the black Ayrelli that grows up in the mountains.
After the asparagus it’s time for the capers. But here we are not interested in the fruit, although they also can be picked and canned. Here we use the tender sprouts of the caper bush. They are picked and then soaked in the approx 4 days in water that is changed every day. Then you put them in vinegar, and some salt, in cans where they “ripen” in a few weeks. A delicacy both at a mezze table and as an accompaniment to food, or snacks to Raki.
Here in Cyprus we preserve most of what we pick, some in vinegar and others we do Macun of. Macun are various fruits, vegetables, peel and nuts with a team of sugar boiled into syrup. Some are easy to make, like the pumpkin, while others require a lot of work such as walnuts. They are picked green and peeled, water bathed for a week, cooked with limes, boiled again and then they are cooked with sugar. It is an enjoyable work!
Everything is seasonal here, so you have to take advantage of everything, so that you can enjoy the flavors though it is not the season.
Right now blooming elderberry bushes (yes, you read that right) which, to my great delight, I discovered this last year. I have of course taken the sprouts and one of them is blooming already. And soon the Elderberry is here. Here it is primarily the women who use the flowers for tea. The tea is considered to be beneficial for women in particular, why have not really been clear to me yet, so I’ll have to consult my mother in law about that.
Cypriots know of course many more plants that they pick and use. I learn something new every season and think it’s great fun to try me at the local specialties.
Try and enjoy!