The Cretan products are famous for their quality throughout the world. In the Super-Market of Lavris Hotels & Spa you can find a variety of excellent traditional products.
When by the end of 1950's American dietitians came to Crete to examine the phenomenon of longevity among the local population, they could not believe their eye: "My God, you do eat a lot of olive oil!" exclaimed Ancel Keys, a famous physician and pioneer in nutrition, as he saw the exorbitant amount of olive oil that was used to dress a salad of greens.
Basically, Dr. Keys was witnessing certain facts of life on the island which travelers to Crete had also noted in previous centuries. Olive oil today is considered the foundation stone of the Cretan Diet and an explanation to the longevity of the Cretans. On-going medical research in Greece and the USA reveal that olive oil not only shields the heart but also promotes the function of a lot of other organs and combats numerous diseases.
Tips: Instead of white bread with butter and marmalade for breakfast, we recommend whole grain bread or rusk dipped in Cretan virgin olive oil and topped with grated tomato and soft cheese (myzithra). This is a more healthy and tasty alternative for breakfast.
By immersing your favourite herb in bottles of olive oil, or a mixture of herbs, the result will be aromatic olive oil.
The dairy products which are included in the Cretan Diet are consumed in small quantities daily.
The basic production of Cretan cheese includes:
- Pichtogalo of Chania
- Xigala of Siteia
Tip: if you are near the town of Chania, you should make a pit stop in the village of Vryses where you can find local yogurt, various types of cheese and steaming hot bread. Have a snack under the plane trees inside the village!
Tip: Instead of bread taste sweet tsoureki with a slice of cheese, or just graviera with honey!
Wine & Raki
The Cretan wine is of excellent quality, pairs well with most meals, and pours in abundance on various occasions and in happy or sad events. In addition to honey, raisins and must are the most important traditional sweeteners of Crete.
In the wine cellar of Lavris Hotels you will find a wide variety of wines with tantalizing aroma and flavour!
On the basis of research by Greek and French experts, the Cretan alcoholic drink tsikoudia (or raki) is among the best three traditional alcoholic beverages worldwide.
On Crete raki is distilled from the residues of excellent grapes regardless of variety. The distillation process takes place in copper or tin alembics (rakokazana) in early October each year.
Tip: "koupa, pl. koupes" in the Cretan dialect means a glass of wine taken in "bottoms-up". If you are challenged to do "koupes" - usually in western Crete - before you drink up you should have already decided about the person in your company to challenge next in this drinking contest.
Tip: If you find yourself in Crete in October, you should visit one of the many alembics that are in operation in your area. This is the month of the year when such "moon shining" operations are major social events, a feast for the body and soul, a return to the ancestral roots, a chance to bake potatoes in hot ash, tell stories and recite mantinades.
Tip: ask for information and a map of the Wine Routes of Crete and follow the scented trail to major vineyards and wineries of Crete.
Greens and Aromatic Herbs
The food regimen of Cretans has always been greens and vegetables, given that such resources are bountiful on Crete and easy to cook. At some time in the history of the island the greens and vegetables had been the staple of the poor and the farmers. The greens are boiled or cooked in various ways, but can also be consumed raw.
There is a wide variety of herbs on Crete today, and most of these have been used as "medicines" since ancient times. There are ancient texts which offer details about the medicinal effects of a wide range of herbs. The excellent herbs of Crete grow on the steep-sloped mountains of the island and are collected by experienced inhabitants. The fresh herbs are dried under the sun and taken to small cottage industries for separation and packaging only, not for processing.
Names of Herbs
- Basil (Ocimum basilicum)
- Laurel (Laurus nobilis)
- Rosemary (Rosmarius officinalis)
- Dictamus (or Erontas) (Origanum dictamus)
- Thyme (Coridothymus capitatus)
- Savory (Satureja thymbra)
- Labdanum (Cistus creticus)
- Chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus)
- Marjoram (Origanum majorana)
- Ironwort (Sideritis syriaca)
- Myrtle (Myrtus communis)
- Mint (Menta x piperita)
- Oregano (Origanum vulgare ssp hirtum)
- Sea daffodil (Pancratium maritimum)
- Sage (Salvia fruticosa)
- Chamomile (Marticaria chamomila)
Tip: crushed basil is used to counteract the poison of scorpions, the sting of bees and skin irritation from contact with nettles.
Tip: marjoram infusion helps treat common cold
Honey, the food of mortals and gods
Since prehistoric times Cretans were skilled in harvesting honey and using it in foods. For centuries honey was the only sweetener known to people. According to Greek mythology, the Olympian gods consumed nectar and ambrosia. One of the most famous exhibition items in the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion is a piece of gold jewellery representing two bees. This was found in the Minoan palace of Knosos.
All of the above prove that honey has been a very important foodstuff in Cretan nutrition.
Tip: The most popular way of consuming honey in the western world is by spreading it over a slice of buttered toast or bread.
Get away from sugar, the usual sweetener, and try honey in your coffee and in some of your dishes.
Tip: Before you leave Crete make sure you have at least one jar of thyme honey in your bags. This type of honey has special aromatic qualities and excellent taste.
Sources: Prefecture of Chania - Aroma Kritis
Bread & Rusk
Flour from wheat, barley and rye is used to make Cretan loaves of bread as well as hard bread (paximadi) or rusk. Both are recognized by the European Union for their high quality, pure ingredients and nutritional value.
Tip: grate fresh tomato over a piece of barley rusk; add oregano, myzithra and a little olive oil. Have you ever made a "Dako"! This is one of the traditional Cretan appetizers which pairs with the main course.