Tasting Xylokastron market

Xylokastron market, Greece
It’s a hot autumn morning in Greece and I’m off to the Friday weekly produce market in the small town of Xylokastron, with my friend Kate, my children’s cousin Chrisanthe and her daughters Kiki and Evgenia. Xylokastron (which means wooden castle in English)¬† is located 120km from Athens, on the northern coast of the Peleponnese, with the waters of the Corinthian Gulf and soaring mountains providing a dramatic backdrop.

Weekly market tradition

The town’s population is about 10,000 and in summer it’s a holiday destination for Greeks. I lived there for a while in the early 1980s, and have revisited whenever I come to Greece. While the town has modernised and changed, and traditional architecture is now often overshadowed by apartment¬† buildings, the weekly tradition of going to the market remains exactly as it has been for decades.

Learning Greek ways

Chrisanthe helped me learn to cook Greek, speak Greek, and learn the ways of Greek culture.

I love her dearly. She has words of wisdom for every situation in life. I’m grateful for her family’s earthy humour and common sense and big-hearted welcome every time I visit. Four generations live under one roof. It’s the Greek way.

Chrisanthe has been going to the Xylokastron market for decades. It’s about three blocks from her home. The market, called laiki in Greek, is a place to taste, gossip and shop. Every few metres Chrisanthe and her daughters stop to greet their friends, often with a kiss on both cheeks. There’s a lot of good-natured banter with the stallholders too.
Eggplants, Xylokastron market, GreeceChrisanthe, Xylokastron market, Greece
Today Chrisanthe is buying a kaleidoscope of peppers and beans, fat juicy tomatoes, freshly-caught sardines for our lunch, the season’s new grapes and glossy purple eggplants.

Yellow beans, Xylokastron market, Greece

The really good oil

And so much more. Olive oil is on special today – a litre-and-a-half plastic bottle costs only 3 euros. The oil is dark green. Gorgeous. I’m distracted by the yummy plums which are only 1 euro a kilo. Chrisanthe isn’t buying oil, though. She gets the oil harvested from her son-in-law’s village nearby.
Olive oil, Xylokastron market, GreeceMore peppers, Xylokastron market, GreeceChrisanthe buys sardines, Xylokastron market, GreeceRed beans, Xylokastron market, Greece
The market opens early and by lunchtime, it’s all over. Chrisanthe will be at home by then, preparing lunch for her family with her daughters’ help. Kate and I nick off to the beach for a swim. It’s the end of the holiday season and we almost have the beach to ourselves.

Agia Barbara beach, Xylokastron

Keeping it simple

We get back home at 2pm, and make simple salads with tomatoes and cucumbers, and sprinkle them with dried oregano, vinegar and splashes of local olive oil, to go with the flash-fried sardines. Chrisanthe has also made bobota, a specialty of her village, which is a kind of flattish bread, sometimes made with cornmeal and containing fetta cheese and courgettes. Many versions of this dish exist – I make one that’s yeast based, and another with yogurt and other veges thrown in. That’s Greek food for you – everyone has their own take on classics. And it all tastes so good.

One thought on “Tasting Xylokastron market

  1. What a lovely story and pictures. I was right there with you. I’m glad you don’t make the images on your blog too big because image-heavy blogs take longer to get it all on the screen. I’m not tech savvy but I hope you know what I mean!


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