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02 MARCH 2016

Greek Herbs

 

When it comes to natural wealth, Greece is a particularly blessed country. Over 1000 species of wild herbs, flowers and plants are endemic to Greece and can be found only here. This wealth and diversity in the flora is a result of the Mediterranean climate and geological morphology of the country: mountains, canyons, valleys, rivers and islands.
Herbs have always occupied a central part of Greek life, not only by adding a defining olfactory touch to characteristic Greek dishes but also, by being utilized for their healing properties. Their beneficial effect has been known to the natives since the age of Hippocrates with different herbs suggested as remedies for different ailments. This accumulated knowledge of centuries is still being passed down from mother to daughter along with specific information about where, when and how to harvest the herbs.
There is no way to do justice to the immense wealth of Greek herbs in this article but, we will try to introduce you to some of them and add information about more species in due time. In our trips you will have the opportunity to learn about, harvest and sample some of them in ways you've never experienced before.
 

Dittany of Crete:  Known in Greece as Diktamo (Origanum dictamnus)

 
In Ancient Greece, Hippocrates prescribed plant cures to aid all manner of ailments and considered dittany of Crete useful for stomach aches and complaints of the digestive system and as a poultice for healing wounds, as well as inducing menstruation. It is native only to the island of Crete where it is also known as Erondas. Dittany grows in mountainous slopes making its harvesting especially hazardous. Young men in love (Erondes) would brave the steep rocks and gather it offering the pale pink blossoms to their loved ones as tokens of their affection. Fortunately for the love struck in Crete today, several growers have achieved cultivating dittany which is widely used in traditional Cretan dishes but also in perfumery, medicine and the flavoring of drinks like absinthe. Still, cultivation poses challenges and the herb is officially classified as "rare".
 

Greek Sage:  Known in Greece as Faskomilo (Salvia triloba)

 
The latin root, Salvere, actually means "to save".  This herb has been known to ancient Greeks and has been depicted in frescoes at the palace of Knossos in Crete during the Mycenaean Period over three thousand years ago. Today this variety of sage remains particularly popular with natives who value it for its detoxifying properties. Greek Sage is also considered an efficient antidepressant and stimulant for the nervous system. It is particularly beneficiary to the female sex as it helps balancing the rotations of female mood, contributing to harmony and tranquility. In the past, the fresh leaves were used for cleaning one's teeth, strengthening the gums and, in general, maintaining good oral hygiene.
 

Olive Tree Leaves:  The plant is known in Greece as Elia (Oliva Europea)

 
The olive tree was sacred for the ancient Greeks, a prized gift of the goddess Athena to the city of Athens. Homer underlines the sanctity of the tree in his writings by recording that in  Athenean Law cutting down an olive tree resulted in immediate condemnation to death. The olive leaves have an interesting aftertaste of lemon and, when boiled, create a delicious tea rich in Vitamin E which is one of the powerful antioxidants that help enhance the immune system. For many athletes, tea from olive leaves is a great source of energy. Most importantly, it is believed to assist in longevity of life and overall well-being.

 

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