A green veil covers the whole of the village, which is situated at the heart of Troodos Mountain. The environment in Apsiou consists of dense plantation, a unique variety of beds of rock, cultivated land and the river Garyllis that runs across the village formulating a path.
Green pieces of land cultivated with vineyards, olive tress and locust trees characterize the village. Phedias Ioannides, an inhabitant mentions that the daily lives of people from Apsiou used to be inextricably connected to the fruition of land. It is worth noting that the harvesting of locusts, olives and grapes used to be their main profession.
Cultivated pieces of land are combined with wild plantation, adding to the beauty of the village. To be more specific, the rich local flora covers the northeast and the southwest extremities of Kakomallis-one of the southern peaks of Mount Troodos. Yiagos Charmanis mentions that northeast of Kakomallis emerges “the green of pine, latzia and antrouklia”, while southwest the cliff of Anogia meets the cliff of Petsis, “embracing” a wild kloof.
The southeastern landscape of Apsiou, where the highest hill of the village Koumana or Koumanta is located, is as breathtaking. This location is inextricably combined with a legendry, which holds that Koumana “has so many treasures, that when they are found, they can provide food for the whole of the island for seven years”.
River Garyllis runs across the foothills of the village and supplies the dams of Polemidia and Germasogeia.
Unfortunately, a great part of the natural beauty of Apsiou was destroyed during a big fire in summer 2002. The fire annihilated wild plantation and the “lord of the fields”, named “Karakannis pine tree”.
What must be noted is a “unique natural phenomenon” that takes place in Apsiou. To be more explicit, there is a great variety of bed of rocks in the village and a group of geologists has shown interest regarding this phenomenon. Scientists try to explain this characteristic based on samples of rocks.
Apsiou-Argyroupoli, Fraternization, Apsiou 2003
Olive cultivation constitutes one of the occupations of the residents of Apsiou.
Presented below are the main cultivating cares regarding olive trees:
Preparing the ground is one of the first tasks olive cultivators need to perform. For the soil to be ready, it must be enriched with nutritious elements and be freed from pesticides.
Pruning the olive trees is very important for their productivity. This takes place either at the beginning of spring or during the harvest period. During pruning, all branches which are considered useless are cut so that only the fruit-bearing branches will remain on the tree.
The irrigation of the olive trees must be carried out with extreme care since olive trees do not require frequent irrigation. However, during the florescence period, that is during the spring months, the irrigation of the olive trees is crucial both for the increase of their production as the quality of their fruit.
The harvest period takes place from the end of October until the end of February. To collect the olives cultivators use the traditional method of caning, as well as modern methods with modern machinery.
The traditional method of caning includes beating the olive tree with a wooden stick to that the olives will fall to the ground and more specifically on the huge sheets which are previously placed under the trees. Next, the olives are put into cases and transferred to the olive oil press for the production of olive oil.
Finally, some olive cultivators follow the traditional method for the multiplication of olive trees called grafting. This particular method involves attaching a branch of olive tree to another tree, while it takes three years after it has been planted for the tree to produce any crops
Ionas Ioannis, Traditional Cyprus Professions, Nicosia, 2001, p.487-49
In winter they sleep,
but In February they blossom,
In March they are robust.
Nowhere else in Cyprus will you
find so many.
The village of Apsiou has a distinctive feature which makes it special amongst the other villages of Cyprus. It is the village of the almond tree. Nowhere else in Cyprus are there so many almond trees.
According to local tradition, the residents of the community used to plant these xeric trees so that they would absorb the high levels of ground humidity. Moreover, according to the residents, almond trees are less demanding and more productive than any other xeric cultivation.
Tens of thousands of almond trees, planted in order, create a beautiful and colourful image in spring, thus making the scenery simply charming. Also charming is the landscape during the harvest of the almonds. It is then when the entire family goes to the fields, with some members beating the ripe almonds with a stick so they would fall on bags spread on the ground while some others are there to collect them and either take them home or to the cooperative society.
The almond tree is a local Mediterranean deciduous tree of small dimensions. The cultivation of the almond tree appears to have spread in other Mediterranean countries by the Greeks and the Romans, whereas its cultivation in Cyprus is dated back to the very ancient years.
The almond tree belongs to the family of the Prunus trees and its naming constitutes the common name of the species Prunus amygdalus communis.
Its main feature is that it blossoms before its leaves appear. Its flowers are impressive, white and pleasant to smell, whereas its petals bear a slightly rosy colour just before blossoming. Its leaves are bayonet, notched with a small stem. Its crops, the well-known almonds, are edible oval drupes with a sharp edge. Its shell, instead of being fleshy like all other stone fruits, is in fact a green and grey shell with a thin down which contains one or two seeds enclosed in a wooden shell with multiple holes. The seeds have a white flesh and their variety determines whether they are sweet or bitter.
The taste of the almonds determines the usage of the different varieties. The sweet almonds are used as table dry nuts, in the making of sweets, in almond byproducts, in drinks, as well as in the extraction of edible oil. The bitter almonds are used in the pharmaceutical industry as palliatives for asthma and cough, as well as in perfumes. Moreover, a type of oil which contains prussic acid also known as hydrogen cyanide and which is a well-known poison is also extracted from these almonds. This substance is removed from the core of the seeds by washing them with alkali so that the almond oil produced could be used in the production of perfumes.
The almond tee is an indigenous plant originating from western Asia and South Africa and apart from Cyprus it is widely cultivated in Greece, Spain, Turkey, Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt.
Almond wood is heavy and hard and is considered to be suitable for fine carpentry.
Commandaria is a Cypriot tasty, sweet wine produced free of any sweeteners or colouring which is made of a mixture of black and white grapes, or even separately, just by either using only black or only white grapes (Baume 7-12 degrees, 13-20% vol.).
The main features of Commandaria, which is served as dessert wine, include its fine taste and aroma. When Commandaria is made exclusively of white grapes it produces a fine colour and aroma but it is less sweet. When it is made just by using black grapes it is quite sweet but is lacks in colour. Hence, to achieve a special kind of perfect and standardised Commandaria according to predetermined specifications, wineries mix both types of grapes.
The name Commandaria was given to this sweet red Cypriot wine by the Hospitaller Knights of Jerusalem (later known as the Knights of Rhodes and Malta), one of the religious military orders which settled in Cyprus after the Luzignans assumed command of the island in 1192 A.D. The order’s military command known as Commanderie or Commandaria was stationed in Kolossi. The Hospitaller Knights also owned the fertile area around Kolossi which included large expanses of wheat, cotton and sugarcane plantations, as well as vineyards and that is the area where the well-known sweet wine of the island was produced. As a result, the Hospitaller Knights adopted and perfected the production of this wine, which they named Commandaria, after their military command, even though this type of wine had been produced in Cyprus a lot earlier. However, we don’t know exactly which grape varieties and proportions were used for the production of the wine back then.
The Hospitaller Knights, being wine connoisseurs and experts in its production techniques excelled in promoting the trade of Commandaria, which became famous through the centuries and is possibly the most ancient wine brand still in use. Commandaria was particularly popular and well-sought after among the most important trade centres of the Mediterranean. In Venice, Commandaria was excluded of any import taxes as it was considered to be a tonic drink. It is also known that in 1363, during a convention known as the “Reception of the Five Kings”, which was held by the mayor of London in honour of Peter I, King of Cyprus at the time and four other kings, Edward III of England, David of Scotland, John of France and Weltermar of Denmark, Commandaria was served only to enthuse everyone who tasted it. A painting hanging at the Royal Exchange of London vividly depicts the colour and brilliance of the entire reception.
During the Frankish Occupation (1192-1489), as well as the Venetian Occupation (1489-1571), the wines of Cyprus and mainly Commandaria continued to be exported in all important trade centres of the time. According to testimonies, back in the 15th century Cypriot wines were exported in Madeira of Spain where the renowned Madeira wines were produced. Cypriot wines were also exported in Venice and Ragouza, two of the most important trading centres of the Mediterranean.
During the Turkish Occupation (1571-1878) both the production and exportation of Commandaria and other wines decreased significantly due to high taxation that was imposed. The decrease of the annual production also continued during the British occupation (1878-1960), while the production levels of Commandaria started to rise again in 1958.
Source: Great Cyprus Encyclopaedia, vol.7, p.271