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February on Crete-the Time of Blossoming Almond

What can rival the beauty of orange groves standing in the snow? It can be only the blossoming almond in February on Crete. These trees get blossom the very first, and although the winter is still going on, the most tender (and courageous!) song of these trees is about the nearing spring. By the way, almonds are not cultivated on Crete–these trees just grow in natural conditions Nature copes well with it without human interventions. Interestingly, the Latin name of the almond is nux Graecum (Greek nut). Archaeological excavations let us suggest that almonds were already known to the Greeks in the 4th millennium BC. Till now the almond nut is an indispensable ingredient of many Greek dishes and delicacies. One of them is soumada, “drink of joy”, which is prepared for any happy occasion. So, in spring on Crete, as well as throughout Greece, weddings are played in the villages, and the “drink of joy”, as the Cretans call it, is obligatory on the festive table, which brings together up to several hundred guests. Soumada is not just a tasty drink: scientists say, it is rich in potassium, phosphorus, calcium and magnesium; it causes appetite, heals gums, helps heart activity, strengthens male power, but the most important thing, of which are convinced the residents of Crete, is that it gives joy.
It is quite easy to prepare this drink. One kilogram of almonds, two liters of water and one kilogram of sugar are used. Shell almonds and throw in boiling water for two or three minutes. Then drain the water with nuts through a colander and quickly peel them until the nuts have cooled. Grind them to a mushy state in a blender or using a mortar. If necessary,gradually add boiled water. The resulting mass is poured into a pan adding about two liters of boiled water and stirring. Thereafter, it turned out to be almond milk. Next, filter the resulting liquid through a tissue or two layers of gauze. It remains only the gruel, which is preserved by practical Cretan woman: it can be used preparing delicious almond meringues called Amygdalota, almond croutons, almond pie or roll. You can also use this almond gruel as a cosmetic: as a mask for the face or hands, because almond oil perfectly nourishes the skin. Now, the saucepan with filtered almond milk should be put on the fire, adding sugar and mixing thoroughly.Bring it to the point of boil, but do not let it boiling, otherwise you might get lost the healing qualities of the drink: at this moment the drink should be removed from the heat and cooled. That’s all. Your «drink of joy» is ready! Come to the island in February and March to admire blossoming almond on Crete!

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