Oregano (Ρίγανι, Rigani)
The etymology of the Greek term is often given as oros oρος "mountain" + the verb ganousthai γανοῦσθαι "delight in"! Greek Oregano grows even wildly on almost every other Greek mountain and comes in many varieties that are used to spice food, especially salads or tomato based dishes.
The Greek Oregano was called, 'Kaliteri' which means The Best due to its excellent repuration for flavor and pungency as well as medicinal uses. Strong, archetypal oregano flavor . This type has small, hardy, dark, compact, thick, silvery-haired leaves, usually with purple undersides.
Hippocrates used oregano as an antiseptic as well as a cure for stomach and respiratory ailments. A Cretan oregano (O. dictamnus) is still used today in Greece as a palliative for sore throat. Oregano is high in antioxidant activity, due to a high content of phenolic acids and flavonoids.
In cooking oregano is a very common and basic aromatic spice of Greek cuisine. It is used in sauces, pizza, soups and the infamous Greek salad. It can also be boiled and drunk like tea and although it has a strong bitter flavor it is one the best natural ways to held digestion after a heavy meal.
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Mastic: The "tears of Chios"
Mastic is a resin obtained from the mastic tree! In Greece it is known as the "tears of Chios," being traditionally produced on that Greek island, and, like other natural resins is produced in "tears" or droplets. Originally liquid, it is sun-dried into drops of hard brittle translucent resin.
Saffron (Greek Κρόκος, Krokus)
On the north of Greece, in the beautiful area of Kozani grows the amazing flower called Saffron! The Greek Saffron is considered to be the best in the world and it has been used as medicine and as a wonderful food spice since ancient times!
Following Cinnamon's Scent
I don't know if it's been my travels of late in the Peloponnese, or my perusals through Indian cookbooks, in search of something different to cook for dinner, or something a cook friend said to me the other day, about how spices make the world seem smaller, but my kitchen sensibility has been tuned to cinnamon in the last few weeks.
Basil, the King of Herbs
This time of the year, and though mid-September, it is common to see flowerpots overflowing with basil. For years, though, Greeks did not cook with this most aromatic of herbs, because they considered it sacred.
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