The Lemnos Philema Gastronomy and Wine Festival
By Yanna Balafouti*
Located in the northeastern Aegean Sea, Lemnos is a special island with distinctive and authentic characteristics—something visitors will immediately notice whether they arrive by plane or ship. The aerial view will reveal the lacy coastline colored light yellow from the wheat, deep green from the vineyards or snowy white from the salt drying around the Alykes lagoon. If you sail into the port of Myrina, you’ll enjoy the blue waters of the Aegean and breathe in the briny sea.
Perhaps one of the most significant of Lemnos’s many advantages is that it can boast dietary and gastronomical autonomy. It is able to cover its inhabitants’ daily dietary needs all year round without having to import anything. We can say it’s gastronomically independent because the islanders have kept up their traditional cuisine, putting the island’s raw ingredients to perfect use.
Nothing, however, is grown, cultivated or produced by accident or on its own in this volcanic soil without human intervention. And this is what makes Lemnos stand out. Its inhabitants are industrious and productive with restless minds, innovative ideas, and heaps of love for their homeland. They respect their history, preserve it, and innovate by keeping up to date, studying, and researching worldwide food trends.
Grains, pulses, honey, salt, herbs, wine, seafood, meat and dairy products, and, more recently, olives, along with the first samples of extra virgin olive oil, are all produced on Lemnos. Some products are available in tasteful packaging meeting contemporary guidelines, or prepared and properly served with the sincere intention of providing Greek hospitality (philoxenia) shining through.
Grains & pulses: The indigenous varieties of grains and pulses have nourished the islanders for centuries. And, as the saying goes: “Wherever there is flour, there is bread.” The island businesses continue Lemnos’s tradition of providing food products for the rest of Greece as they have done since antiquity. Flour was one of the main export goods as well as its famous wine.
Wine: The land of Lemnos has fulfilled the need for enjoyment and fun at celebrations and feasts since ancient times with its wine made from the oldest variety of grapes in Greece, the red kalabaki, better known as limnio.
Apart from this ancient red grape variety, the white variety, Muscat of Alexandria, traveled from Alexandria, Egypt to Lemnos, where it flourished more than any other in the volcanic soil, managing to put Lemnos of the vinicultural map of Greece.
Initially, wine-making focused on sweet wines in various forms—sparkling, wines made from sun-dried grapes, and aged—while dry wines came later, and the first organic vinifications have recently made their appearance.
Livestock farming: The serfs who tended their overlords’ lands often lived with their herds of sheep and goats. In these dwellings, which are now under preservation, one can find both the livestock pens and simple, but comfortable and ergonomic, rooms with fireplaces, beds and ovens. Lemnos’s livestock farming also continues the island tradition by breeding mostly sheep and goats and producing outstanding goods.
Dairy: The large population of sheep and goats generously provides the island cheese-makers with milk so they can make cheeses of protected designation of origin (PDO), like feta, kalathaki Lemnou, melichloro hard cheese, kaskavali as well as yogurt and butter. Exported in considerable quantities, these are true gastronomical treasures and have won over fans all around the world.
In addition, the wide availability of top-quality milk allows many householders to make their own cheese according to recipes handed down from generation to generation for centuries, preserving the culinary tradition of the island.
Pasta, breads & sweets: Taking advantage of the ancient varieties of limnos and panagia grains, modern facilities generate a wide range of products, respecting both tradition and consumer safety.
Traditional rusks, noodles (called flomaria) in different sizes, sourdough bread baked in wood-burning ovens, chickpea croquettes called pitaroudia, as well as a special sweet called Venizelika, named after statesman Eleftherios Venizelos, made with almonds and chocolate, all lend finesse, color and aroma to Lemnos’s cuisine.
Lemnos Philema Festival*
*Philema is the Greek word for treating someone to food or drink and the Lemnians are courteous and welcoming in offering it.
Armed with this culinary arsenal and aiming to promote the gastronomical heritage of the island, the Lemnos Philema Festival was created. This excellently organized annual festival targets the island’s visitors in the peak tourist season. For three days in a row at the Apothiki venue in Myrina, local producers and packagers inform the public about their products while treating them to delicacies and their fine wines.
But the Festival doesn’t stop there. The wineries, cottage food businesses and restaurants participating in the festival open their doors, set the stage, decorate their tables, design special menus with exclusively traditional menus and give tours, hold tasting workshops and eat!
A team of well-known chefs, journalists and bartenders are invited to support and create their versions of food, sweets and drinks based on Lemnian goods.
The team keeps informed, documents and photographs the good practices, the ports, beaches, the inland, the Myrina fortress, the sun setting behind Mt. Athos, the salt marshes, the sand dunes, the breeze and anything else that might be considered worthy and should be communicated about an island which ultimately represents the authenticity of Greece.
For more information about the Lemnos Philema Festival, visit the official website. To read the article in Greek, click here and plan your custom family itinerary in “Gastromagical Greece” with the guidance of MAMAKITA travel advisors making your request here.