‘We used to grow more wheat than Roumeli’

The treeless hinterland is golden with new crops and dominated by kites that the farmers make to scare off the crows. «Limnos used to produce its own variety of wheat, from which we made a hard, yellow flour,» says miller Panayiotis Mavroudis in Kapasi. «And we used to grow even more wheat than Roumeli [on mainland Greece]. It was hard work; people gave it up. You can count on your fingers those who keep up the struggle. We’ve all gone modern. We wanted an easy life and are losing our tradition,» he says. But some people, like cheesemaker Alekos Kafaltis, do persist. Born into stock farming, he has 300 sheep and 50 goats. He and his wife make cheese near Plaka, in the northwest of the island, and hope their son Pantelis, who studied cheesemaking in Ioannina, will soon join them. At the salt pans we meet Sofi, Nassos and their friends from local villages, who show us how they collect salt with hoes, then dry it in the sun for a week or so before removing any foreign objects and storing it in jars. In the past, when the state had a monopoly on salt and collecting it was prohibited, the 630-hectare salt pan was guarded night and day. Kyr Nikos from Kontopouli, who has come to fill the baskets on his donkey with salt, recalls «the smart alecks who used to lie in wait at night with whistles to scare off people who had come to gather a little salt to use at home. The salt gatherers would drop their baskets and run and the other rascals would go in and collect the salt without having to do any work.»