Saville, cherry tomatoes in several colors, watercress, fennel, coriander, fresh oregano, basil, rocket, purslane, chives, baby beetroot, are some of the vegetables cultivated by Mr. Chris Blantis in Marathon. Mr. Blantis is being experimented widely by cultivating unusual vegetables for Greek consumers. The last one he discovered was the kale, a vegetable that looks like broccoli. At least the last two years kale is very popular abroad, since apart from its fine taste, it is also a rich source of energy and vitamins, Mr. Blantis explained to us.
When did you start and how many acres do you cultivate?
From a young age I always wanted to help my father in the fields and with farmers market. After I was fired by the army, this has been my job. Today I am 35 years old and I cultivate about 20 acres. I produce vegetables outdoors and in greenhouses year-round. I distribute my products into local markets and the appropriate restaurants. I like to have always something unusual on my bench.
Why did you choose such unusual vegetables?
In order to survive you should not remain on the same things for long, but you must search for new crops because the consumers demand new products. I generally like to cultivate “exotic” vegetables that are not easily found in the Greek market. I cooperate with agronomists who supply me with seeds from abroad. Trials help me to evaluate seed sources. Recently I cultivated kale, lemon grass, lemon basil, cinnamon basil, mustard greens, red rocket, watercress, etc. Consumers of our country are not aware of all that. Only those who have lived abroad buy them.
What is the profit of a producer?
Producers are not paid for the total hours worked. Besides permanent staff, the whole family works. I would much rather work 8 hours and go home to be with my family. The problem with vegetables is that you have little profit. It may seem that the retail price of vegetables is high but the producer earn very little profit. Moreover we have neither CAP subsidies, nor EU programs funding.
How do you make a new product familiar to consumers?
At first I present it and give it to them without money to be put on their table. If they like it then they will ask for it. When I start to deal with a new product I know that the first two crops would be distributed as a gift. After that I estimate whether I could have a return. However, Greek consumer need a lot of effort to be convinced for new products. Even those who are looking for healthy eating.
What are the most popular gourmet vegetables that you cultivate?
The saville was the first gourmet vegetable that we cultivated. Russian friends of my father gave it to him 15 years ago. From a client I heard about chives. Many people like the mojito cocktail, but few of them know that it is made by vegetable mojitos from the Latin America and not by mint. From the beetroot baby we use only the foliage which is added on salads and juices. We brought the kale from Germany two years ago. It’s pretty well advertised in USA and Northern Europe but has not yet been known in our country. Kale is a variety of wild cabbage that it is gaining ground on green leafy vegetables because of its multiple health benefits that make it one of the most popular superfood. The first year I paid 900 euros for its cultivation and none bought it. The second year it went on sale.