Zastražišće is one of the villages along the road between Jelsa and Sućuraj, at roughly the halfway point. The area is known for its fruits and flowers, and the fine island products made from them. We’ve been there twice recently, once in May with a Nordic walking group, and again last week as part of the Jelsa Wine, Olive and Heritage Festival. Unfortunately, I can’t share the tastes and fragrances in a blog, but I’ll do my best to describe them and recommend that you go and discover them for yourselves!
We started at OPG Ante Mateljan – Babić Homemade Products, who are handily right on the main road, just past the pekara. The Mateljan family has cultivated olives and used local medicinal plants for generations. They produce wonderful fruit jams, preserves and syrups, as well as excellent olive oil, wine and prošek. We were treated to a gourmet feast, in which just about everything was grown or made by them. There were various bruschetta (with very tasty combinations of vegetables and their own savoury jams), mature cheese in olive oil, fresh grilled courgettes, enormous green early-ripening Petrovka figs, and to finish fig and prosek balls dipped in chocolate (very yummy). Their black mulberry and chilli jam was particularly good! Introducing all the courses was Ivana, one of the daughters of the house, and who also makes her own jewellery from local plants. The family shop, with a range of goodies is open daily, but a tasting such as we enjoyed would obviously be by arrangement in advance.
We then took a little walk around the back ways of Zastražišće, always interesting to take a peek into life in the village with its old houses and courtyards. There’s a move afoot to encourage the use of the local dialect, and in particular poetry, for which an annual festival is held. This is a long strung-out village, with clusters of houses at various points along the road. Actually more like collections of farmhouses, each with their own yard and outbuildings. Each section has its own name – Mola Bonda, Podstrana, Donje Polje and Grudac. The entire village is named after the conical hill which was known as Stražišće, or “guard post”, now simply called Vela Glava (305m). It provides great views towards Brač and the Biokovo mountain range on the mainland. Conversely, of course, the hill is a clear landmark for miles around.
Moving up towards the church of Sv Nikola, we visit OPG Grgo Lučić, who cultivates fields of lavender, other herbs and medicinal plants and produces wonderfully fragrant oils, balsams, and hydrolates and soaps. They’re all natural products and come with their own distinct health-giving benefits. In June, we watched as Grgo opened the still after processing a load of ‘smilje‘, or immortelle as it’s known in English. The lid of the vat is in the shop, then we go down underneath to the cellar to watch as the remains of the smilje are pulled out to cool. From around 1200 litres of plant material, they extract 0.6 litres of essential oil. Next week they will be harvesting the lavender too.
In May, our walking tour finished here at Lučić, with some snacks and wine, which they also make. For the Wine and Olive Festival in June, we continued on to Kod Kućera family farm, to try some of their homemade cheese and wine (both excellent). They have goats and donkeys, and the beautiful restaurant terrace looks over Pokrivenik Bay. It was rather hazy and humid on the day we visited, sadly, but the view must be glorious on a fine day. We were intrigued to learn that a ‘trim‘ (drystone field shelter) is locally called a ‘kućer‘, meaning a small house. They’re used for storing your tools, and this one has even been a chicken coop at one time. All cleaned out now, it’s wonderfully cool inside, even on the hottest day. The donkeys, Mina and Hugo Boss, are very friendly and patient with visitors. Originally from Brač, they are now retired here and well looked after.
Great couple of outings to Zastražišće, and I also want to give a mention to Ante Beroš and his family who have their ‘stolarija‘ (carpentry) workshop there. They made the beautiful wooden doors, windows and shutters for our house, and we’re so happy with them. You can always tell their work, adds that touch of authentic style to a Dalmatian house. And I have to say they also make one of the best prošeks I’ve ever tasted, too!
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