Farmers’ Secrets

The secrets of life may be discovered by talking to the farmers who run the fruit stands along the scenic Adriatic Highway along the coast between Split and Dubrovnik.

One of the treasures from our weekend road trip to the southern tip of Croatia is a piece of scrap paper tucked in my purse. On it, a farmer’s wife from the Neretva River valley mapped out a centuries-old olive grove to find the best olive oil, her favorite restaurant to have lamb and her recommendation for a sandy beach where we wouldn’t step on too many stones.

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Between offering us skewers of cantaloupe, sips of freshly squeezed orange juice and spoons of jam from the fruit in their fields, the English-speaking Croatian couple we met at their roadside produce stand offered advice on health and wellness and the benefits of a slower pace of life.

Earlier in the day, “W,” my 10-year-old, picked me a flower near the restaurant where we had lunch at the cable car stop high above the walled city of Dubrovnik. I fashioned his gift into a corsage and tied it around my wrist. I had forgotten about it by the time we got to the fruit stand, but the farmer’s wife saw it and picked a yellow flower to go with it.

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Her husband explained that the fragile yellow Mediterranean plant is known as “the immortal,” and it contains a sought-after essential oil. His wife said people come to isolated islands along the coast just to pick it. The farmer told me to soak the flower heads in olive oil for 40 days and then rub it into my skin. Maybe he knows where to find the Fountain of Youth, too.

In his next breath, the farmer switch topics to beer and gave Sarge the local perspective on the merits of Ožujsko over Karlovačko. Then he gave us more samples: peaches for our boys and fresh candied orange and lemon peels that had been drying in the sun for us.

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At one roadside stand, we got an unexpected culinary lesson and a glimpse into the lives of people who do backbreaking work to really bring the farm to people’s tables. Tourism is their livelihood, and the relationships they make with people who stop in mean the difference between making a sale or being passed up.

We didn’t leave empty-handed. The bottles of fruit syrup were too pretty to pass up. We got an assortment of items and some candied fruit the sellers suggested we have with coffee instead of adding sugar to our coffee.

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Before we could head back to the car, the farmer filled another bag with peaches and figs and handed it to me while he shoved a fig in my mouth. He told us go down to the sandy beach, sit in the water and eat peaches and figs. That, he said, would be the perfect way to experience Croatia.

42 thoughts on “Farmers’ Secrets

  1. Sounds amazing! I am so happy that you all are having so many wonderful experiences. These memories will be treasured and stay with you all forever. Thanks for sharing them and making us all feel as though we are there too!

  2. I’m simply amazed at the “color” that you’re finding there! What stories “A and W” will have to recount! Carry on, Tanya!

  3. What a lovely experience. Seems like you really made a connection with the local farmer. Curious how the flower head will work after 40 days 🙂

  4. This looks lovely. The coffee with fruit syrup idea is brilliant! And your post really evokes the feeling of a small moment in your travels having more meaning through a local encounter.

    1. I wasn’t expecting a highlight on that roadside stop, for sure. But I am glad for the experience!

  5. Oh wow, this looks amazing. Croatia has been on my bucket list for a long time – it just looks so gorgeous. Peaches and figs are some of my favourite fruits.

  6. I love the locals that tell you how to best experience their community, they impart wisdom and kindness that makes travel essential in our global education. Your children are getting the best out of the world by traveling and seeing just how generous people are – no matter what their origins.

  7. Aww what a nice experience. I love to talk with the locals. Peaches, figs and beach sounds perfect right now 🙂

  8. What a fun discovery! I love discovering local favorites and would also treasure that hand-written map! I also think that was a sweet gesture for the lady to add to your hand-made corsage!

    1. She was great. I hope she is there when my in-laws visit and we take them to the fruit stands. I’d love to run into her again.

  9. I’ll be in Split, Croatia next month, but I won’t see as much as you because I’m going to dance event. I’ve often considered living in Croatia for many reasons you mentioned. The pace of life is wonderful, people understand how precious living in the moment really is. I’m glad you’re having a wonderful time!

    1. We drove through Split over the weekend, and that’s another place where I’d love to explore. I hear their waterfront is great, and I’d like to check out the art museum. Enjoy your travels and dance event!

  10. I love that the piece is about just a real experience, not your average tourist experience. Such a breath of fresh air. I guess you experience a lot of these being married to a pilot! 😛 Oh and great writing btw!

  11. “The secrets of life may be discovered by talking to the farmers”, this is so true. The farmers really work hard for us to enjoy our meals and somehow it seems a pretty thankless job, atleast back in my country. I am so glad you had such a wonderful experience. 🙂

    1. We didn’t have time to stop at the beach the farmers suggested, but we are going back in August and will have to check it out. Most of the beaches we’ve been to are rocky, so you need water shoes (which they sell in lots of stores here). On our drive home, we did stop at a seaside restaurant next to a nice sandy beach – Shooko Beach Bar in Omis (about half an hour from Split). It was a great little spot!

  12. Amazing photographs. I too live an international sort of life. We have so much to learn from people who live in the countries we visit. And it’s so important that we share everything we learn from them with our own people back at home in the U.S. Thank you for writing!

  13. It’s so nice when locals share their stories and secrets with us travelers. It makes us feel more like home.Seems you had a lovely experience and nice photos 🙂

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