Visionary, nomadic beekeeping
By Louisa O’Brien
“… and in Aegina you can find the rare thyme honey produced by Adonis Tzitzis – who is one of the few visionary beekeepers of our times…” thus writes the journal “Deltion Gastronomon” of the American School of Agriculture in Thessaloniki.
Visionary Adonis Tzitzis (left on the above picture) and his wife still produce Aegina’s famous pure Thyme Honey called “H Panagiotara”, after his father, and his son’s godfather. “H Panagiotara” is just the thing for the herbal tisanes you will be making during the winter months – delightful too on yoghurt and desserts of course. Mrs Tzitzis – says she can’t drink her coffee with sugar, it has to be honey! But, they caution, honey should not be put into very hot water as it loses some of its therapeutic qualities that way.
Adonis’ future as a bee-keeper was decided very early on; when, as a child, he saw a swarm of bees in a tree and managed to get them down and into a box. A family friend then told him that is how beehives are started, so he bought a beehive from Athens, and that was it! After he left the army, in the 50s, he planned to go to America – as so many compatriots were doing in the lean post-war years – and unwilling to emigrate as an unskilled worker, he took himself off to the state agricultural school in Kifissia from where he graduated in 1959 as a qualified beekeeper. However, America turned out not to be the answer for Adonis and his young wife and two children so they stayed on in Aegina to become “nomadic beekeepers”.
Nomadic beekeepers? A quick search on the internet reveals that the first forms of bee keeping, on a nomadic basis, were developed in Pharaonic Egypt, around 3000 BC. The hives were arranged on barges which sailed down the Nile and were then anchored near to grassy banks or woodland so they could follow the seasonal flowering processes. Adonis’ version of the pharaonic barge was to load the lorry up with as many hives as it would take and to set off in search of the blossoms. They, and other nomadic beekeepers like them, would follow the blossom to Palia Epidavros’ orange trees in the spring, traveling to the Argolida, Copaida (Boetia), Thiva, Tripolis, Evia – wherever the flowers and trees were blooming, returning to winter in Aegina.
Naturally this got in the way of the farmers who couldn’t graze their flocks where the beehives were installed, and many was the time that our beekeepers were chased up hill and down dale by irate shepherds! Once the beehive was in place, however, there was nothing the locals could do – as the “law was on our side”.
After 55 years of beekeeping, and in his heyday working 230 hives along with his wife, Adonis now stays in Aegina and produces less, but still very high quality honey, with help from his son who has graduated from the famous American School of Agriculture in Thessaloniki. He recalls that every year in Aegina after the last thyme blossom was brought back to the hives by the bees – in midsummer – they would hold a “Trigos” festival in their yard, serving freshly-made loukoumades dripping with the pure golden stuff, to a large gathering of family and friends.
“H Panagiotara”, contains no chemicals and no additives – the taste is clear and true, redolent of our childhood years. You can buy the honey at the house of Panagiotis, at Kapodistrias 28, in Aegina town. Prices depend on the type of honey from € 10 to € 20 per kilo.