Aromatic Herbs & Wild Greens

Botanical studies record that Crete has one of the richest and interesting ecosystems in Europe, with a huge number of endemic (native only to Crete) plants. For example, Malotira (Siderites syriaca) and Diktamos (Oreganum dictamnus), the last known in Antiquity for its antiseptic properties.

Crete offers numerous such herbs utilized from the past for their medicinal properties. These herbs generally grow in the inland mountain ranges: they are harvested by experienced collectors, dries under natural condition and packaged in modern material, without recourse to chemicals or other additives.

Dittany/Diktamos (Origanum dictamnus)

An endemic, also called erontas and stomachochorto: used since the past to staunch blood-flows and in the treatment of wounds. It has a therapeutic effect on the stomach. The healing properties are mentioned by Hippocrates. Legend has it that wild animals, when injured, will rub the wound on the plant .. and that healing quickly follows. Growing only on steep slopes and cliffs, its harvesting can be dangerous. The plant flowers in the summer and is collected then.

Sage/Faskomelo (Salvia fruticosa/pomifera)

A most popular herb, with an excellent and strong flavour. Used since antiquity for its properties as a tonic (a tea); also to give flavour in cooking, mostly with meats. It flowers in May to June, with mauve-blue blossoms.

Marjoram/Manzourana (Origanum microphyllum)

An endemic, with properties similar to thyme, Used since ages past for nervous disorders and considered ideal for treating colds. May be served with Malotira as a drink (vrastari-boiled). Also employed in cooking and perfumery. Flowers in July and August, and gathered then too.

Malotira (Siderites syriaca)

One of the ‘mountain teas’, known throughout Greece. As a decoction, it is a diuretic, and an antidote to colds. In Crete, the name Malotira was acquired in the Venetian period (Italian: male-illness + tirare-pull or drag). It grows in dry and barren places throughout the mountain ranges, where it is also an important fodder crop in the high Madara (= White Mountains: Madares being another name for the range). July is the month of its flowering, and collection.

Oregano/Rigani (Origanum vulgare, ssp hirtum)

A very popular herb, it gives a fundamental aromatic note to much of Mediterranean cuisine – especially with grilled meats, fish and on salads and with feta. As well as its culinary aspect, it is used as an antiseptic, a soothing agent for tooth- and stomach-aches. Amongst bee-keepers, it is a valued flowering plant – alongside thyme. It flourishes in stony and sunny places. The flowers are white, with a sweet and peppery scent: blooms in June and July and collected then.

Thyme/Thymari (Thymus capitatus)

 The blue-flowered variety dominates, though in Crete a white version is known: both are vital to the honey-producing business (the best quality honey is from thyme). In cooking it is used as a dressing. In medicines, thyme has antiseptic, diuretic, anti-fever and anti-parasitical qualities; its essential oil is used, for example in toothpaste. It too blooms in June and July.

Savory/Throumba (Satureja thymbra)

 It smells somewhat like thyme and rigani – and like both is plant useful to bees. An appetite stimulant, and employed in foods, it also has pharmaceutical properties – eg. it acts as a sedative for rheumatic pains. It blooms in June to August.

Chamomile/Chamomeli (Marticaria chamomila)

This grows just about anywhere in Crete which is uncultivated. With its distinctive taste, it is employed mostly and widely as a medicine – anti-inflammatory, anti-allergy, soothing (often used after a stomach upset) and antiseptic. Normally it is taken as a tisane, by itself or with other Cretan herbs. A relaxant, it is an excellent remedy against insomnia. Collected from April to June, it is dried and used the year round.

Rock rose/Ladanum (Cistus incanus, ssp creticus)

A perennial aromatic shrub, with medicinal qualities too. The stem and leaves contain a balmy resin (labdanum) with a strong scent: this resin is secreted by hairs on the leaves, and is collected by a sort of rake pulled through the bushes. The resultant brown and malleable stuff is also used in liturgical contexts as an incense. Medicinally the resin has a strong antimicrobial quality (also combating leukaemia); and is used as against toothache, tetanus and insomnia. With its seeds, the plant can be boiled to make a tea, which assists against diarrhea. In Crete, it is regionally known as Wild Rose or Wild Sage. With its beautiful pink, and more rarely white, flowers it blooms from March to June.

Source: Cretan Quality Agreement

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