In every Greek kitchen you will find large jars of dried oregano. It is sometimes called spice, but oregano is an herb that is an important ingredient in the Greek diet. Greeks add them to almost everything: salads, feta, meat, fish, potatoes and legumes.
Scientific studies show that the addition of oregano to meat before heat treatment drastically reduces the formation of carcinogenic compounds called heterocyclic amines, which arise when grilling, baking and frying meat. Oregano is also rich in antioxidants that protect cells, slowing down the aging process and reducing the risk of many diseases - including cancer. In addition, it also has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.
During one of our trips to Crete, the discovery for us was mountain oregano, which differs from the usual one that is known to all. It smells different, looks and tastes different. It grows high in the mountains on rocks rich in calcium and other important minerals. There are no roads there, so the inhabitants cut them by hand and carry them down. This kind of wild oregano draws a number of substances from the soil, which makes it contain a whole range of minerals and other beneficial substances. Wild oregano is a rich source of calcium, magnesium, and trace amounts of iron, zinc, potassium and vitamins. It is also a forgotten drug from the past, which is one of the oldest known medicinal plants. He already knew the properties of oregano Hippocrates and Aristotle.
The ancient Greeks used them as a medicinal herb and not as a typical kitchen spice. Even today, the effectiveness of wild mountain oregano surprises scientists. Initially, they tried unsuccessfully to prove that oregano has no healing properties. It turned out, however, that it works as a very effective antioxidant and antiseptic. When seasoning dishes with this type of oregano, you do not need much, because it is very aromatic and rubbed dry fingers tend to give off a very strong smell.
Mountain oregano is not available in any spice store. However, it is worth spending some time to find a seller's stall offering this herb. Its price is also higher than the price of ordinary oregano, but the long-lasting smell and intense flavor will make it possible to store them for a long time, which perfectly compensates for its higher cost.
If you are going to Crete for the first time, be prepared for the explosion of real flavors and aromas. Cretan vegetables and fruits are fresh and full of flavor, while wild herbs that smell in the air, emphasize the taste of simple dishes with their intense aromas.
When browsing the stalls with local products in Crete, you will certainly find Malotira, the so-called. Moutain Tea. This popular plant known under the Latin name sideritis syriaca grows wild in the mountainous areas of Crete in the Lefka Ori massif, thanks to which it is devoid of pollution. Malotira is one of many species of gentile, which is popular in the Mediterranean, the Balkans and the Middle East. Sideritis syriaca is a variation occurring only on Crete, and the specific smell of this dried plant and the flavor of the infusion are irresistibly associated with this island.
Since 2000, the Institute of Mediterranean Agriculture in Chania has conducted regular research, the main purpose of which is to determine the quality of honey produced in Crete. Currently, the amount of honey examined has been increased to around 500 samples, the vast majority of which comes from Crete.