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A Taste of Greece
In a recent initiative, called quality farm products’ basket, already known in Europe, Greek regions have launched promotion campaigns at both domestic and international level, aiming at advertising their quality products and mainly those characterized as PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) and PGI (Protected Geographical Indication).
The basket, hallmark of regional food’s excellence, includes products of animal and plant origin such as cereals, pome fruits, stone fruits, legumes, wine, herbs - medicinal plants, fodder plants, products made with goat milk, as well as meat, mushrooms, fish, traditional products and others.
Greek olive oil is the basis of the Mediterranean Diet. As the main ingredient of every recipe found in Greek traditional cuisine, olive oil plays a dominant role in Greek nutritional habits. Greek olive oil is known worldwide for its purity, exceptional taste and high nutritional value.
Olive oil can be mainly classified as Extra Virgin, Virgin, or Pure, depending on the way it is produced, its chemistry and its flavour. Greece produces more than 430,000 tons of olive oil annually, and more than 75% of that is Extra virgin olive oil, which is considered the best type. Greece is the third largest olive-oil producing country in the world, after Spain and Italy.
Did you know?
- There are approximately 120,000,000 olive trees in Greece.
- Greece is the world’s third largest producer of edible olives and olive oil, with a 16% share of the international olive oil market.
- Some olive trees planted in the 13th century are still producing olives.
- According to Greek mythology, Athena and Poseidon agreed that whoever gave the city the best gift would become its patron. Though Poseidon gave the gift of water, Athena’s gift of an olive tree was deemed by the other gods to be more valuable.
- Olive oil has been regarded as the "beauty oil". The body's cells incorporate the valuable fatty acids from the oil, making arteries more supple and skin more lustrous.
Greek vineyards are among the world’s oldest and have produced wines for thousands of years. Thanks to its geographical location in the temperate Mediterranean region, Greece is endowed with favourable climatic conditions for vine growing.
Greek wines, like many agricultural products in Greece, carry a long history and a heritage which comprises unique viticultural practices and a treasure of local grape varieties. This combined with the contribution of keen producers who apply modern, human-scale wine production, make Greek wines different and unique.
The great number of grape varieties native to Greece, Assyrtiko, Moschofilero, Agiorgitiko, Xinomavro and hundreds of other lesser known varieties, offer seasoned wine lovers a glorious terrain for exploring the diversity and singularity of Greek wines.
Almost all Greek wineries participate regularly both in wine competitions and other eminent wine-tasting meetings from which numerous award winning Greek wines have emerged, placing Greek wine in a coveted position in the international wine scene.
Greek Wines Portal: New Wines of Greece
Did you know?
- Greece, the renowned birthplace of Dionysus, the god of wine, has arguably one of the longest wine histories in the world. Wine is being produced in Greece for more than 4,000 years.
Greece produces some of the finest cheeses in the world, for every type of cooking and every occasion. Apart from the best known feta, many other varieties, equally protected under the PDO provisions, are worth tasting.
Greek cheeses like the hard, salty kefalotyri and graviera, the sweet manouri, the fresh myzithra or the smoked metsovone, are all produced with the most traditional and qualitative way. All these Greek cheeses are exported throughout the International market making Greece and important exporter.
Greek cheeses have great nutritional value and they are rich in elements that are essential for the development of the human organism. They are used in many recipes, in baked goods, casseroles, appetizers, mezedes, with fruit or simply as table cheeses.
Did you know?
- The first recorded cheese maker ever is the one-eyed giant Cyclop, as mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey.
- The annual per capita consumption of cheese in Greece is about 25 kilos, more than in France or Italy, who are also famous European cheese lovers.
The mastic of Chios island (Mastiha Chiou) is characterized as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) product, exported from Chios all over the world. It is a natural, aromatic resin, produced from the mastic trees that grow exclusively on the Aegean island of Chios. It is used as a natural chewing gum, but most importantly, it is used in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and even in the culinary world. Due to its various qualities and unusual taste, mastic is used to produce a large range of other products such as sweets, jams, ice-creams, chocolates, chewing gums, tooth paste, candies, bakery products, beverages, tea, coffee, dairy products, pasta, sauces, liquors, ouzo and wine.
Did you know?
- Although mastic trees grow in many Mediterranean countries, they produce little or no mastic, except for those of south Chios. Therefore, Chios Island is the only place in the world where mastic is produced. This is probably because of the volcanic composition of the soil and the climate.
- The abundant therapeutic properties of mastic had been already noted by the father of medicine, Hippocrates, while its use as the first natural chewing gum and as a cooking spice has also been documented from antiquity.
The Greek red saffron (Krokos Kozanis) is PDO protected and placed among the most precious and valuable spices inherited by ancient civilizations, due to its aromatic, colour, pharmaceutical and aphrodisiac properties. The northern Greek prefecture of Kozani is one of just four regions in the world where saffron is grown, and the Greek variety is considered of supreme quality, a distinction worthy of the attribute ‘flower of the Mediterranean cuisine’. Collecting, sorting and processing are done without any help from technology. Approximately 50,000 stigmas are needed to produce just 100 g of red saffron.
Greece is the world’s largest producer of organic saffron and Kozani saffron had been one of only fifteen European agricultural products featured in a campaign to promote quality European farm products outside the European Union. Italy, Spain, the United States, and Australia are some of the main markets for Krokos Kozani.
Did you know?
- Frescoes in the palaces of Knossos (1600 B.C.) clearly depict a young girl gathering crocus flowers. Fragmentary wall-paintings at the archaeological site of Akrotiri, on Santorini Island depict saffron gatherers who offer their crocus-stamens to a seated lady, perhaps a goddess. Moreover, in his writings, Homer calls dawn, a crocus veil.
Fishery and Aquaculture
Greece is a country with a large tradition in quality fishery. With a 4,000-kilometre coastline around the mainland, plus a further 11,000 kilometres around the Greek islands, Greece offers excellent conditions for fishery operations: the waters around Greece are home to approximately 250 marine creatures.
Although modern technology has changed fishing industry worldwide, the majority of Greek coastal fishermen still fish with the traditional methods and fishery fans around the globe include Greek Fishery within their choices and honour them with their preference.
The Greek sea fishery lands around 130,000-160,000 tonnes of fish and seafood every year. About 90% of this is caught in the Aegean Sea. Some of the most common species are sardine, anchovy, sea bream (tsipoura), sea bass (lavraki) and Mediterranean mussels.
The Greek sea is also the source of many delicacies like avgotaraho, a traditional fish roe delicacy, protected under PDO and considered by many as Greece’s answer to caviar. Smoked trout, smoked eel and a host of other preserved fish are among the country’s most prized local delicacies, as well as a growing part of food exports market.
Furthermore, aquaculture provides a significant contribution to primary sector production in Greece. Sea aquaculture, in particular, is constantly increasing its share of contribution to the country’s economy. Greece ranks first in terms of production among European Union and Mediterranean countries with commercial aquaculture finfish species and sea aquaculture ranks second in Greek exports’ food & beverages category. Moreover, it is estimated that over 80% of the Greek production is exported, mainly to Italy, Spain and France, while, lately demand is also growing in Central and Northern Europe.
Did you know?
- Greek fishery is considered a ‘Med champ’. Fish, is the second largest agricultural export after olive oil, and sometimes, comes first. The country exports almost 85% of its products and for some species Greece accounts for nearly half of global production.