The local varieties of Lemnos are an essential element of sustainable development. Preserving cultural heritage and diversified agriculture create ideal conditions for mild, low-input, low-energy footprint production that responds to the challenges of the climate crisis.

Athina Kavaleri

Babis Dinenis

Nassos Karagiannakis

Raphael Giannelis

Stavros and Antonis Lantouris

Athina Kavaleri – a Mediterranean Food Hero

Athina Kavaleri and her husband run a village grocery store on the Greek Island of Lemnos.

“My dream is to be able to produce my own tahini, to professionally package my legumes and to combine it with utilising my paddock in Krinida as a tourist attraction.” 

Whilst Athina continues to cultivate her family’s land to supply her customers with a fresh supply of organic asparagus, beans, starch, sesame, chickpeas, flaxseed and legumes as well as growing alfalfa cereals (barley, wheat, oats) to keep the farm’s animals well-fed. 

Babis Dinenis

Babis was born in a family of kehaghiades, the traditional Lemnian stock-breeders and farmers. His mandra is about 10km drive from his village. Unlike many young men of his age, Babis chose to become a stock-breeder, just like his father and mother and continue the family trade. He is dedicated to the land and his animals. His family produces various dairy products, including an excellent melipasto cheese.

“It is very important to make locals understand how important it is to preserve the gastronomic heritage of Lemnos. Our local delicacy “flomaria” (traditional noodles) are topped only with melipasto cheese. There’s no other way.”

Nassos Karagiannakis

Nassos is a fervent follower of tradition and continues the work of his father and grandparents preserving valuable traditional knowledge. At his mandra, built in a remote and difficult to approach area in Vigla, he keeps native goats and sheep suitable for the local terrain and climate conditions that feed upon at the hilly pastures.

“Making cheese and wine is demanding work, things should be made in the right order. A lot of time and attention is needed for a good outcome, that’s why you must love what you do.”

Raphael Giannelis

Raphael’s MA thesis focused on the labour relations, identities and memories of the kehaghiades of Lemnos, the traditional farmers and stockbreeders of the island. In 2015, he returned to his village of Varos to work on the small family farm, producing and marketing milk, cheese and sheep and goat meat. All animal products are produced using ecological farming and management practices. At the same time Raphael cultivates traditional varieties of cereals and legumes using organic farming methods. He’s also one of the last basket weavers on the island, making mainly tyrvolia, the traditional handmade baskets made of rushes, in which the well-known local cheese of kalathaki and melipasto are made.

Stavros and Antonis Lantouris

Stavros is proud to come from a family of kehaghiades. His father, Antonis, was one of the people that migrated for a few years to Australia, but he missed his island and soon came back. He bought his own mandra in Fakos area and started a family. Stavros learnt how to make cheese from the age of five by watching his father. He’s meticulous in his work and is always looking for ways to improve whilst carefully following traditional practices of cheese making.

“The knowledge of making melipasto is passed down from my grandfather to my father and from my father to me. From the past generation to the next, it’s a family tradition.”

Afkos

Eating more legumes and particularly pulses as a source of protein instead of meat is not only healthy but environmentally friendly. Afkos is a local variety of legumes in Lemnos planted in autumn. It has been the backbone of the farmer’s diet, providing all elements necessary for the demanding life of kehaghiades which has been cultivated to a larger scale over the last decade. One portion has 35 times more antioxidants than an antioxidants vitamin supplement.

Lathouri

The second variety of yellow split peas, these legumes are planted in mid-March and are a smaller crop than afkos, usually cultivated to enable farmers to be self-sufficient. Each family of farmers holds its own seeds, which they replenish yearly to share amongst the workers. This is a direct consequence of the matrilineal system that runs family affairs on the island, which defines the ways all properties are bequeathed.  

Sesame

Instead of using the expensive olive oil, imported from Mt. Athos, Imvros and Thassos, sesame was cultivated. Tahini and sesame oil were widely used in Lemnos’ kitchens often for the production of local sweets. Small bundles of pods are tied together to dry for about ten days and then the sesame seeds are collected.

Aspromytika Beans

These beans are cultivated throughout Lemnos and are eaten on and off the island. They can be used fresh or dry. Each seed producer is registered with a distribution certificate.

Melipasto Cheese

If only one flavour could represent the essence of a place, for Lemos, it’s melipasto cheese. It represents the most important qualities of Lemnos and its people, the aroma of its landscapes and pastures and the craftsmanship of its producers. Made from sheep and goats milk from the end of May until August it’s an example of traditional ecological knowledge at its best. Each producer is a proud custodian of family secrets that give an extra twist to the final product. They use different kinds of rennet, quantities of salt and milk type to make their unique melipasto cheese. Local breeds of sheep and goats give a unique flavour and are usually free-range and graze upon the local flora of the island. 

Recipes to try

Fava from Afkos or Lathouri

Fava from Afkos or Lathouri

Prep time - 5 mins |

Cook time - 30 mins |

Serves - Many |

See the recipe
Tyropitoudja (Greek Mini Cheese Pies)

Tyropitoudja (Greek Mini Cheese Pies)

Prep time - 1 hr |

Cook time - 30 mins |

Serves - Many |

See the recipe
Samsades With Sesame

Samsades With Sesame

Prep time - 1 - 1.5 hrs |

Cook time - 40 mins |

Serves - Many |

See the recipe
Aspromytika Bean Salad

Aspromytika Bean Salad

Prep time - 15 mins |

Cook time - 15 mins |

Serves - 2 |

See the recipe

What You Put on Your Plate Can Change the World

Share A Dish Night
25-27 June 2020

#MedFoodHeroes

Let’s celebrate sustainable food

rootedveryday.org/medfoodheroes

What You Put on Your Plate Can Change the World

Share A Dish Night
25-27 June 2020

#MedFoodHeroes

Let’s celebrate sustainable food

rootedveryday.org/medfoodheroes