Mother Earth Living

Centuries of Cretan Herbs: The Beautiful Landscape of Crete

Experience Crete as if you were there right now...
By Nancy Allison
February/March 2002
Add to My MSN


Content Tools

Related Content

Love Your Basil: Thai Basil

In the late summer, Ocimum basilicum 'Thai' bares beautiful red or deep purple blooms. Check out Ram...

Spanish Roots: Two Saffron Recipes

Garlic, saffron and parsley take me straight to the Mediterranean.

Greek Yogurt Ranch Dressing

Swap out your bottled ranch dressing for this easy and nutritious recipe!

DIY: Create a Plant Herbarium

Plant herbariums collect herbal memories all summer long.

The dry and rocky landscape of Crete may appear to be barren, says Lambraki, as she surveys her native land. But visit in May, she advises, when the wild herbs are blooming. Take a deep breath and you can almost make a meal off of the scent.

Making meals flavored with herbs is a Cretan specialty. The island, with its rugged coastline and mountains thick with olive groves, hosts a unique crossbreed of European, African, and Asian flora. Cretan flora includes nearly sixty species native to Asia and not found anywhere else in Europe, and more than 200 species not encountered in mainland Greece.

The Cretans have made ingenious use of their island’s native herbs since antiquity,according to Lambraki, and have exported the herbs for centuries. She quotes Claudius Galen, the personal physician of Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, who wrote in the second century, “Many of the herbs cultivated in the emperor’s gardens originate from Crete. Many of the greens, herbs, fruits and seeds on this island cannot be found anywhere else in the world. . .”

Cretans don’t take this bounty for granted—the wild herbs and greens which abound there are used daily. A visitor to Crete is immediately struck by the wealth of herbs everywhere, from fresh dill and fennel in tiny markets to chamomile, oregano, and dittany in the souvenir shops. Even at the airport gift shop, you’ll see Cretan herbs and thyme-flavored honey among the bottles of ouzo and Greek olive oil. And ever present is the scent of wild thyme and sage on the hot breeze.

Fennel, too, grows wild along the roadsides and in the hills, its sweet licorice scent as delightful as its delicate fronds. On my visit to this lovely island, I found that simply seeing herbs grow wild made me feel happy. And what a temptation! Each time I took a walk I’d return to my pension with my pockets full of oregano to use on my lunchtime tomato, olive, onion, and feta cheese salad.

For more information

These websites contain helpful advice for planning travel and Crete or interesting information if you’re just looking for fun.

www.interkriti.org 

www.cretetravel.com 

Click here for the main article, Centuries of Cretan Herbs.

Nancy Allison is a freelance writer living in New York. She writes about plants, people, and places for several magazines in the United States and the United Kingdom. 

 








Post a comment below.

 








Subscribe today and save 58%

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
Country:
Email:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Subscribe to Mother Earth Living!

Welcome to Mother Earth Living, the authority on green lifestyle and design. Each issue of Mother Earth Living features advice to create naturally healthy and nontoxic homes for yourself and your loved ones. With Mother Earth Living by your side, you’ll discover all the best and latest information you want on choosing natural remedies and practicing preventive medicine; cooking with a nutritious and whole-food focus; creating a nontoxic home; and gardening for food, wellness and enjoyment. Subscribe to Mother Earth Living today to get inspired on the art of living wisely and living well.

Save Money & a Few Trees!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You’ll save an additional $5 and get six issues of Mother Earth Living for just $14.95! (Offer valid only in the U.S.)

Or, choose Bill Me and pay just $19.95.