“Surely Love is a wonderful thing. Pearls and pomegranate cannot buy it…” ~ Oscar Wilde
It’s appropriate that an ancient fruit should have a close relationship with an ancient town. Both the pomegranate and Ermioni have been part of recorded history for millennium. Situated in the southeast Peloponnese, the Kranidi region is an agriculture powerhouse for Greece especially in olives & pomegranate.
The annual Pomegranate Festival in Ermioni features this fruit of gods as well as delicious juice blends, liquors, seeds and pomegranate inspired art. The whole town is involved especially the restaurants featuring pomegranate inspired dishes. In Greek mythology the pomegranate was known as the “fruit of the dead,” but Ermioni is very much alive.
The Ermioni Pomegranate Festival is held the last weekend in October and coincides with the national patriotic commemoration of Ohi Day celebrated throughout Greece and the Greek diaspora on 28 October each year. Ohi Day (“No Day”) marks the event in 1940 when Greek Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas rejected the ultimatum to surrender made by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini
Ohi Day is celebrated by honoring the youth of Greece, both in the thousands of young lives sacrificed during the bloody 20th century and in the respect shown by the generations for each other. School after school band march in precision and in Ermioni musical performances take place on a waterfront stage.
The centerpiece of the Ermioni Pomegranate Festival is the cooking demonstrations by chefs from the local area. One dish in particular caught everyone’s attention, and was his original. I would call it a “buckwheat risotto.”
Buckwheat with Pomegranate and Cream – approximately 4 servings
- ¼ cup honey, preferably Greek thyme honey
- Chopped cilantro (handful)
- Juice of 1 large lime
- ½ cup olive oil
- 1 &1/2 cups buckwheat
- 2 &¼ cups water
- 1 pound slivered pork loin
- 1 pound sweet onions
- 1 cup white wine
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1/3rd cup pomegranate liqueur
- ½ to 1/3rd cup cream
- pomegranate seeds and (optional) feta cheese
Cook the buckwheat:
- Add water to the buckwheat, bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Thyme honey (at least ¼ cup)
- Generous handful of washed, dried and chopped cilantro
- Juice of one lime
- Olive oil (at least ½ cup)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1-pound slivered pork loin in the honey mixture until buckwheat is cooked.
- Heat a large skillet
- Thinly slice 1 pound of sweet onions
- Coat the skillet with olive oil and saute the onions until soft.
- Add the pork and marinade and stir-fry for a couple minutes
- Add at least one cup of white wine
- Allow the liquid to reduce by 1/3rd then add one tablespoon Dijon mustard and 1/3rd cup pomegranate liqueur
- Stir in ½ to 1/3rd cup cream and cook a few minutes more.
- Add salt and pepper to taste as well as additional, cream, pomegranate juice or liqueur until sauce is creamy.
- Serve over buckwheat garnished with a good handful of fresh pomegranate seeds and if desired a little feta cheese.
On Ohi Day the towns of the Peloponnese honor high school graduates who have been granted admission to this ancient nation’s universities. Town and religious officials present each student with a certificate at a public ceremony. Pomegranates may be the “fruit of the dead,” but Ermioni understands that youth is not just about the future; it’s the present.
When you go: The Ermioni Pomegranate Festival is held the last weekend of October. From Athens, Ermioni is 50 miles (80 km), approximately 3 to 3 ½ hours by ferry, bus or car.
Special Thanks: Mr. A. Laddas of the Municipality of Ermionida for being my guide, Avance Rent a Car provided transportation to explore the Peloponnese. Accommodations compliments of Fun In the Sun Travel and Tourism. Press arrangements were facilitated by the MTCgroup Consulting.
Travel with Pen and Palate to Greece and the world every month in the Hellenic News of America.