The tobacco growing in Chios was profit making for our place till a good price for the mastic was modulated. After the burning of tobacco leaves in the sixties, many people left in search of a job somewhere else.
Helen recalls: “In March we took seeds from the tufts we had kept and we sowed them in flower beds. We watered small lettuces all around so as to have some food for ourselves. From April to May we did the planting and when they grew up to thirty centimeters, we did the mattocking. After a while we removed the dipia , that is the first leaves. Removing the dipias meant taking off the lower leaves. This helped the plant grow. We went to collect them at dawn, before the sun rose, so as not to give out bad smell (glue). We passed the needles in threads and then we tied them in rods and made sticks. We hung the rods in thick branches and made kremandalathes (drying spots). When they were dry, there came Demosthenes and Giorgis and did the balling in a wooden case with a simple system of pressing. They placed them in a sack and we tied them using a packing needle”.
Nicolas adds: “We had the aromatic Izmir tobacco. When it turned hot in the
morning, the glue came out and destroyed the quality. We constructed kremantalathes using two poles and a wire against the wall. If the field didn’t have walls, we put four poles. We leveled the soil and after a few days, we laid canes on the ground to help them get dry, to empty kremantalathes and put other canes there. When they got dry on the ground, we sprinkled them so as to dampen them from the previous evening, not to be rubbed and then we crammed and transported them to the village and made a stack there. We took the rods to place new needles. Tobacco growing needed hard labour. Toubecci (a kind of aromatic tobacco) was prohibited. We recognized it in the flower beds from its round leaves and we uprooted it. We had nice tobacco plants, but Karamanlis wanted to take them to his birthplace (Serres) and so the auditors gathered them in Mantza some year and burnt them, because they claimed they weren’t good. Nobody planted them again”.
Extract from the book “Let’s go to our Patrika place”. Translated into English by Anastasia Pentakis.
He was born in Patrika, Chios, in 1962. He worked in Softex paper industry and since 2016 he’s been living in Patrika. He cultivates mastic trees and has published the books : “Let’s go to our Patrika place” and “Eternal Mastic Tear”.