Melipasto/Melichloro cheese – a significant element of the intangible heritage of Lemnos

By Irini Lyratzaki, Mediterranean Institute for Nature and Anthropos (MedINA) 

The intangible heritage of our communities and societies contributes a great deal to our culture and identity. Under the auspices of the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH), the Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports develops the national inventory of Greece’s intangible heritage in an attempt to register its elements and provide an accurate picture of its current state. Inscription of an element in the national inventory requires a special form to be filled out, accompanied by the necessary documentation. It is imperative that the bearers of ICH—community groups and even individuals—are involved in the preparation of the application file and later on, in the necessary updates.

MedINA, in cooperation with Terra Lemnia local partner Anemoessa, an Association for Environmental Protection and Architectural Heritage Conservation of Lemnos, carried out desk research and fieldwork, including a number of on-site interviews, to record the information needed to submit the file for melipasto/melichloro cheese. The team, which included Theophilos Massouras, Professor of Dairy Science at the Agricultural University of Athens, met with a number of small and large cheese producers, who explained in detail the entire procedure of cheese making, its origins, as well as its significance for the Lemnians in the past and the present.

As part of efforts to restore West Bakaa landscape multi-functionality and its associated cultural practices, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon (SPNL) developed a management and restoration plan for degraded high mountain pastures in the Himas of West Bekaa in collaboration with the Environment and Sustainable Development Unit at the American University of Beirut and jointly implemented it with local municipalities and shepherds.

The melipasto/melichloro cheese has been an important element of the economy of the island, its gastronomic heritage and the cultural identity of the locals. It is also a source of pride for its large number of producers who make cheese in mandras, the traditional agro-pastoral premises of local farmers, in small or larger cheese factories following traditional recipes, and also in their home kitchens, carrying on a very old tradition: to ensure that their family will have enough cheese—a product necessary for their survival in the past—for the coming year. 

Following the submission of the file for melipasto/melichloro, Anemoessa and MedINA will host an open event in Lemnos in springtime to discuss with the local community on the potential for further action regarding valorisation of significant elements of the local intangible heritage.

Officials from the Ministry of Culture will join the event, sharing their views and experience with the people of the island.

Feature image: © P.Pravlis

All photos provide by P.Pravlis

Youtube video by Mediterranean Institute for Nature and Anthropos (MedINA)