Greens & Indigenous Herbs

CRETE IS FAMOUS FOR ITS AROMATIC PLANTS AND HERBS

Which grow everywhere, in the mountains, in farming areas and in coastal areas. Some of them are endemic and have been known since the ancient times for their remedial properties. Nowadays, their use is somehow limited, but everybody drinks a herb tea in winter (sage, mountain tea or dittany). Don’t forget that the exquisite taste of the Cretan dishes is owing to the use of aromatic herbs.

Dittany or Erontas

(ORIGANUM DICTAMNUS)

It is an endemic herb of Crete, also called “erontas” or “stomatohorto”. It has been known since the ancient times and has been used as a haemostatic and wound-healing agent. Its healing properties are mentioned also by Hippocrates. It is said that when wild goats get injured, they rub their wound against this plant and it heals rapidly. It grows only on steep slopes and cliffs, so its collection is dangerous. It is collected in the summer months. Currently, we mainly drink it as a tea but it is also used in the production of drinks.

Sage

(SALVIA FRUTICOSA)

It is one of the most common herbs of Crete, with an excellent fragrance. It blooms in May and June, producing purple-blue flowers. It has been known since the antiquity for its toning properties. In cooking it is used as a spice in various dishes, especially with meat.

Marjoram

(ORIGANUM MICROPHYLLUM)

It blooms in July and August and is collected during that period. It is used in pharmaceutics, cooking and perfumery. It has similar properties to thyme and it was used in many cases of nervous disorders since antiquity. Ideal for the treatment of cold. It is often served as a hot drink with malotira.

Malotira

(SIDERITIS SYRIACA)

It is known all over Greece as the “mountain tea”. It is collected in July, during its blooming period. It grows in dry and barren places throughout the massif and it constitutes an important fodder plant, especially of the area of high Madara. (Madares, another name for the White Mountains (Lefka Ori), deriving from the Cretan word “madaros” meaning “bare, without vegetation”). In antiquity the word “sideritis” referred generally to the ability of healing wounds inflicted by metal objects. The word “malotira” derives from the period of the Venetian rule in Crete(from the Italian words “male”(=disease) and “tirare”(=pull)). The tisane of malotira is used for the relief of stomach disorders, as a diuretic, and against the colds.

Oregano

(ORIGANUM VULGARE SSP HIRTUM)

Oregano is known to everyone. It blooms and is collected in June and July. Its flowers are white, with a sweet spicy smell. It can be found in rocky and sunny places. In apiculture it is considered a particularly important plant along with the thyme. It is a basic aromatic plant of the Mediterranean cuisine used for roast meat and fish. In the past, the oregano collection constituted a significant source of income for the rural population. The medicinal properties of oregano are also known since antiquity. It is used as an appetizer, antiseptic, sedative for toothaches and stomachache and its essential oil is widely used in perfumery.

Thyme

(CORIDOTHYMUS CAPITATUS)

It blooms in June and July and has large blue flowers. In Crete we also find the white thyme. Both species are important bee plants. Thyme honey is regarded as the finest. Thyme has antiseptic, diuretic, anti-parasitic and antipyretic properties. Its essential oil is used, among others, in toothpastes. In cooking, thyme is used as a flavoring.

Savory

(SATUREJA THYMBRA)

It is a pharmaceutical and apicultural plant. It blooms in June and August. Its smell is similar to that of oregano and thyme. It stimulates the appetite and acts as a sedative in rheumatic diseases. It is also used in cooking. Many other aromatic plants and herbs, such as fennel, rock rose, lavender, kafkalithra (Mediterranean hartwort), lemon balm and others, abound in the dry and waterless parts of the massif of Crete, as well as in in the forests and the gorges. But also the gardens and the courtyards are full of basil, spearmint, rosemary, parsley, dill, lemon verbena and many other plants which have always constituted the actual aroma of Crete.

Chamomile

(MARTICARIA CHAMOMILA)

It is collected from April to June, dried and used all year round. In Crete you can find it everywhere, especially in wastelands. It is considered to have anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic and soothing properties. It is also used as an antiseptic. It is usually consumed hot as a tea in combination with other Cretan herbs, helping you to relax perfectly and fight insomnia.

Mint

(MENTHA X PIPERITA)

It blooms between June and August and is collected during this period. It is considered to be one of the most important herbs. It is against indigestion, mental disorders and insomnia. It is used to fragrance ice-creams, fruit conserves and mainly salads, as its strong scent brings freshness to the salad and makes it very special.

Tilly

(TILIA CORDATA MILL)

It is an aromatic and medicinal plant.The blossoms are considered good for the stomach, antitussive, soothing, spasmolytic, diuretic, expectorant, diaphoretic, prevent fattening and reduce nasal secretion. It blooms in June and July.

Laurel

(LAURUS NOBILIS)

Many people do not know the properties of this bushy tree and therefore they cannot appreciate its usefulness. It was used in the past to strengthen the hair. Its tea was applied to the part of the body that suffered from rheumatisms or muscle contusion. It is very useful against indigestion and for the good function of the stomach.

Rosemarine

(ROSMARINUS OFFICINALIS)

In the past it was used as a tea against headaches and migraines. Experts believe that its regular use is ideal against hair loss. It is antibacterial, antiseptic and a strong blood circulation stimulator. It also used against insomnia.

Basilicum

(OCIMUM BASILICUM)

Basilicum is used as a spice in the Cretan nutrition, as well as to fragrance olive oil, alone or in combination with other aromatic herbs. It comforts migraines, strong headaches and mouth inflammations. It also alleviates intestine convulsions. In the past it was used crushed for its soothing action against scorpion bites, bee stings or irritation from nettle.

Honeysuckle

(LONICERA)

What can be said about this delicate flower with the intoxicating smell and the dazzling beauty? Its fragrance is unique! For this reason, an essential oil is made from honeysuckle. It was usually used by old nature – worshippers against skin inflammations and insomnia.

Oat

It is a useful herb in medicine and it is recommended against depression, exhaustion and insomnia. It is considered to be a very good stimulant of the nerve system, because of the vitamins it contains and the so-called “tannin”.

The "lily of the sea"

(PANCRATIUM MARITIMUM)

The plant is also reproduced by the “potatoes” it produces, but despite its reproductive capacity it is often destroyed by the human activities on the coasts, including moto-cross on the sand. The fragrant blossom of this plant, which is at risk in the Mediterranean coasts due to the tourism or other «develppment», inspired with its beauty the ancient artist who skillfully painted it at the region Akrotiri in Santorini, as it was revealed about 2.500 years later by the archaeological excavations.

Willow

(VITEX AGNUSCASTUS)

It is a deciduous bush with grey-green, palm-shaped aromatic leaves and purple or white sweet- smelling flowers in the summer and early autumn. According to mythology, when Prometheus freed Centaur Cheiron, he put a wreath of willow branches on his head, to remember his ropes that were made of willow. Moreover, Homer mentions in Ilias that Achilles tied Priamus’ sons with willow branches in the forests of Idi.

Myrtle

(MYRTUS COMMUNIS)

The myrtle has deep green leaves and delicate white flowers. It was a source of inspiration for an ancient artist, who made the golden myrtle wreath of the royal tomb of Vergina. The myrtle was dedicated to Aphrodite of Pafos that emerged from the sea and hid behind this bush. The nymphs wore myrtle wreaths. Its leaves are full of glands with essential oil that gives the plant its fragrance. These glands look like holes if you look at them against the light.

Ladania

(CISTUS CRETICUS)

The “ladania” is a perennial aromatic bush. It has beautiful pink, and rarely white, flowers and blossoms from March to June. In Crete, depending on the area, it is called wild rose bush or wild sage. It is an aromatic and pharmaceutical plant. Its buds and leaves contain an aromatic resin called “ladano”. This resin is produced by the glands of the leaves and shows strong antibacterial action and, most importantly, action against leukaemia. It also has good results against insomnia, toothache and tetanus. A tea that is made from the fruits of the plant stops diarrhoea. A tasty fragrant tea is also made from its leaves.

 

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