Agriculture and all relevant activities have always been an inseparable part of the culture and history of our island and, through the centuries and up to this very day, its economy has been based on the products grown on the plains and the surrounding hills: olive oil, grapes, citrus fruit, vegetables and fruit. Cereals and grains are no longer grown since the use of mechanical means has made it unprofitable.
However, new products are now grown such as avocado which has proved profitable and the climate is ideal for such cultivations.
In the mountain area there are no fields to cultivate with the exception of the Omalos Plateau. The people living in these areas breed livestock, specifically goats and sheep. There are numerous traditional creameries where the milk is processed and delicious dairy products are produced.
Bee keeping has also proved very productive and profitable in these areas. The rich flora with the exceptional aromatic herbs and flowers enables bee keepers to produce honey of unsurpassed quality, famous all over the world since ancient times.
Visit Platanias in autumn and you will have the opportunity to take part in one of the following activities:
Grapes have been grown and wine has been produced on the island of Crete ever since the Minoan Era. There is no chance of feasting without wine, therefore each family produces its own. After the grapes are harvested , they are placed in a special compartment where they are crushed either by mechanical means or by trampling on them with bare feet. The liquid produced is collected in special barrels or tanks where it “matures” as days go by and result in a tasty, aromatic wine- one of the best in the world.
“Tsikoudia”(or raki )
The leftovers of the crushed grapes are placed in containers where they are left to ferment for a period of 20-30 days. Then they are boiled in special distilleries and “tsikoudia” is produced. It is the custom for friends to come together for such an occasion and have a great feast eating and drinking wine or newly produced “tsikoudia”. The usual treat is meat barbecued on the coals glowing under the distiller but there are also other treats such as wild mushrooms, chestnuts, kalitsounia(pies made with greens and soft white cheese) – all of these picked or grown in the surrounding area.
Picking of Olives
One of the most significant agricultural activities of the autumn and winter months is that of picking olives and producing olive oil –a task in which nearly every Cretan participates.
In the lowlands a species called “lianes” is grown. These trees are usually short and their olives are small. These olives are picked by beating the branches with special equipment and collecting the olives on nets or special sackcloth spread underneath the trees.
On the hillsides or mountainous areas there is another species called “tsounates” with definitely larger olives and trees rising to a height of 10 to 15 or even more metres. Special nets are spread under the trees to collect the olives whenever they fall, they are collected in sacks every 20-30 days and the nets are left there till the end of the harvest, often lasting to the end of May and sometimes the beginning of June.
After the olives are gathered they are taken to the olive factory where the processing takes place and olive oil is produced.
Since most Cretans own their own olive trees , they are self-sufficient in olive oil , the most valuable product of the island ever since ancient times. It is famous all over the world for its quality and value – truly “the green gold” as the locals call it.
Another very special product are the olives themselves, table olives, processed in many ways and preserved in salt , vinegar or lemon and bitter orange juice, a real delicacy for locals and visitors alike.
Raising livestock has always been one of the basic occupations of the Cretans, especially those living on the mountainous areas where agriculture and farming was out of the question because of the rocky landscape. It is not an easy one but it is a simple way of life including a sense of freedom and pride. The many herbs of the mountains where sheep and goats graze, the know-how of thousands of years combined with modern manufacturing methods lead to the creation of the tastiest and healthiest dairy products on earth. One of the most famous is “graviera” cheese, not to mention the soft white sour cheese called “mizithra” or the soft white sweet cheese called “anthotiros”. Last but not least, there is yoghurt especially the one made from sheep’s milk-all of the above exceptionally tasty and healthy.
From July to September local bee keepers are busy harvesting one of the most precious products of the land – honey. Cretan thyme honey is not only the healthiest , it is also the tastiest one resulting from the various herbs and flowers the bees come in touch with. The bee keepers take their hives from the lowlands , where citrus trees are in full bloom in spring , to the hillsides and mountains full of aromatic herbs, especially thyme.
Because of this great variety of the sources the bees get nectar from, it goes without saying that this honey is not only the tastiest , it is also the best in content of nutrients and substances valuable for your health.
One of the most impressive sights for the visitor crossing the plain from Hania to the area around the Keritis River Valley is that of the numerous orange, tangerine and lemon groves which are at their best in spring, giving off their sweet, intoxicating aroma .
The many white little blossoms in spring with their delicate aroma as well as the bright colours of the fruit in winter are a sight for sore eyes . The consumption of citrus fruit juices provides vitamin C and other important elements ensuring fitness and healthy body function.
There is no doubt why this fruit is consumed in such quantities by the locals but also why it is a favourite for markets and consumers abroad.
Business in the field of Agrotourism
There is a whole Network of Businesses in the field of Agrotourism. The main ones are:
- Organic Farming
- Traditional Accommodation
- Restaurants specializing in Cretan Cuisina dishes /Traditional coffee shops
- Production of Traditional Products
- Traditional Occupations
- Alternative Tourism
- Events- Seminar- Conference Management