Even first-time visitors to Crete are likely to be familiar with the usual fare of souvlaki (kebabs), grilled meat, Greek salad and even stuffed vine leaves. Read on to discover some of the lesser-known ingredients used in Crete, and be sure to hunt them down in the local “laiki” (market) or taverna!
First up is the prickly pear, a surprisingly tropic fruit to find on a mediterranean island. A species of cactus, the pear is thought to originate in Mexico, and is a small red fruit with thousands of downy, but incredibly sharp, spikes on its skin. The fruit is particularly rich in magnesium and vitamin C, making it the perfect superfood to add to your morning smoothie, and also has a 90% water content, making it perfect for hot days! Prickly pears are best eaten cold, so chill them in the fridge for a few hours before eating. They are also tasty made into jam or jelly!
If you find yourself relaxing beneath the shade of a large tree and notice it seems to be growing green beans…congratulations, you have found a carob tree! Known around the world as a poor-man’s chocolate substitute, carob is an integral part of Cretan history and culture, although sadly overlooked in recent years. Many Cretans credit the carob tree to their survival during the difficult times of WW2, when food was in short supply and the local population turned gratefully to this tree to provide them with nourishment. Ground carob produces a type of flour which can be used to make bread and biscuits, whilst boiled carob flour produces a thick syrup – perfect for drizzling on fruits and ice cream. Luckily, local farmers are beginning to remember the benefits of cultivating this nutritious substance, and visitors to the island will notice a number of carob-based products on offer in speciality food shops and bakeries.
Anyone who goes hiking in the Cretan countryside is sure to pass patches of a bright yellow plant known as sideritis, malotira or simply ‘mountain tea’. This is one of the most characteristic herbs of the island, although it grows throughout Greece. It has a never-ending list of therapeutic properties, being anti-inflammatory, anti-anaemic, a diuretic, a stimulant and suitable for detox. Mountain tea also benefits from a beautiful, refreshing smell, and is sometimes used as the basis of perfumes for this reason.
Guests of the Minos Palace are invited to discover the world of Cretan cuisine at the Amalthea Restaurant and Culinarium Inblu Restaurant, where local dishes full of the freshest ingredients are served overlooking the beautiful blue Mirabello Bay.