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. If you stop somewhere outside the cities when you travel, the smell of herbs when you open the car door can almost knock your legs off. Driving through the mountains, it is worth giving up the air conditioning in favor of open windows, through which the air permeates the aroma of plants growing here.
Dried herbs that the Greeks sell, smell much stronger, last longer and give much more flavor to the dishes. It is worth buying and trying, because thanks to that we will stop at least some of the Cretan sun and unique climate for longer. Unfortunately, industrially dried herbs that can be bought in our stores, the aroma is lost a few days after opening the package. However, it will sound as soon as we go to Greece, we do not buy most of the dried herbs in Poland, we only bring our stock for the whole year.
So what is it worth to bring from Crete? Look, for example, for dried mountain oregano, mint, or bay leaves. Rosemary will also be great, although it more often occurs in herbal blends. In some stores these herbs are available in the form of whole dried twigs, which will keep the aroma for the longest time. It is worth to buy them, because although transport in your luggage will not be the easiest one, it will later be a dried-up bunch to decorate the kitchen.
In general, in the Cretan shops with traditional products you can also buy prepackaged herbs produced by several companies currently on the market. However, it is worth looking for sellers offering goods hand-harvested high in the mountains. Such herbs are very aromatic, not without significance is the fact that they grow in unpolluted places. On the Greek islands are also popular mixtures of various herbs and spices prepared for various dishes, for example, for moussaka, Greek salad, fish or feta. This is a good solution, provided that we buy well-prepared mixtures from a reliable manufacturer. Unfortunately, unfortunately, we also hit some sandy mixes or rather weird pieces that just ended up in the basket. Nevertheless, most of such ready-made workers showed good and durable. We found a phenomenal mixture of herbs in the herbal store Maravel in Spili. Good herbs can also be obtained in some monasteries. This year, in this place, we bought the best laurel leaves in our life. When buying packaged herbs it is worth paying attention to their appearance, because unfortunately, also in Crete, you can find less honest sellers who want to sell old products. The foil packaging in which the spices are sold should in no case be yellowed and the herbs should be frosted. This is a sign that they spent a lot of time on the store shelf.
The obligatory purchase should be Malotira ( Μαλοτήρα ) or Dictamon. Malotira is a Greek mountain tea from the dried branches of Sideritis ( Sideritis syriaca ) growing on the slopes of the White Mountains is recommended by the Cretans mainly for colds. The fact that it is effective can actually be confirmed, because we have been successfully testing it for many years. With the addition of honey, it is an alternative to Polish raspberry tea. Equally popular is Dictamon ( Díktamo, Cretan Tea, Origanum dictamnus ) slightly milder in flavor than Malotira and used in many ailments, such as: disorders of the digestive system, nervous system and also in colds. Buying both should not be a problem in herbal stores. These two teas are also always included in the list of mandatory purchases.
Feta is a soft cheese with about 40% fat content. It is also fragile and melts well. Thanks to storage in brine, it retains freshness for a long time. The conditions in which feta ripens affect its taste. It can be spicy, mild or more salty. Greeks usually have their favorite types and buy them.
Carob is otherwise the carob tree (Ceratonia siliqua L.) or carob tree found among others in the countries of the Mediterranean Basin, India, the Middle East or Australia. This evergreen and heat-resistant tree grows both wild and cultivated. Before sugarcane reeds and beets were disseminated, carob fruit was the main source of sugar due to its nearly 50% sugar content.
Under the name Glyka tou koutaliou, fruits are found in very sweet syrup prepared in a traditional way in Greek houses. Well-made allow to preserve the shape, color, smell and taste of the fruit. Currently, however, the tradition of preparing these sweets is slowly disappearing, because you can buy them ready, which allows you to save time needed to prepare them.