Greek food culture is heavy with history and regional pride. Greeks gastronomize what’s grown nearby – the isolation of many of the country’s regions and islands makes eating local an obvious existence. The country’s bounty delivers wild, impeccable culinary resources. These three celebrated Greek goods are comparable to the Grecians themselves – spirited and robust.
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
The pristine pick. Greece has the highest consumption of olive oil per person and allocates 60% of its cultivated land to olive growing. “Extra-virgin” olive oil comes from the first pressing – it’s the best quality, the priciest, and also has a lower acidity. 80% of Greek olive oil is extra-virgin, which makes Greece the world’s largest producer of extra virgin olive oil. Extra virgin from Greece contains more polyphenols (antioxidants) than extra virgin oils of other origins.
The Grecians douse everything in this stuff – it’s the Mediterranean way. Flavor of oil varies by region, ranging from the sprightly spicy and green oils to the more mild, round, and fruity varieties. Taste is completely a matter of preference, and oils made from both unripened (pungent, spicy, green) and ripened olives (mellow, robust) have culinary relevance.
The farmy, raw pick. Greece is home to some industrious bees: 12,000 tons of honey is produced each year. The country is blessed with an abundant amount of flora for the bees to populate and harvest, and the land’s rich backdrop of biodiversity is what makes Grecian honey some of the best in the world. The country’s sunny, dry climate ultimately reduces the moisture content of the bee’s product, making the honey super thick and concentrated. Heady and fragrant, the Greek stuff takes its flavor from the wildflowers and herbs that bees feed off of – the honey isn’t ever flavored afterward. Greek’s notorious thyme honey is produced between from mid-June to mid-July. The color of Thyme honey is light to medium amber when in liquid form, and beige-ish to brown when it is crystallized and solid. It’s intensely aromatic with viscous herbal, savory flavors and hints of tropical fruits. A delicious cliché would definitely be to buy imported and do drizzle it on Greek yogurt.
[ksee-NOH-mah-vroh] The wild card pick. Greece is one of the oldest wine-producing regions the world. A red varietal grown in many parts of the country, Xinomavro, makes gorgeous juice. Red fruits, olives, spices, and tomatoes make up its complex aromatics. Grapes’ seeds are what controls tannins in wines: the more seed, the more tannin. Xinomavro is a tannic little dude because each individual grape contains 4 seeds (4 times the tannins). Because of its strong tannins, the grape needs lots of maturation time. It’s long-aging potential is what makes it such a fascinating wine to watch, and eventually, taste. Like many other Grecian varietals, Xinomavros will most likely never get popular – there’s big money involved due to the time and care it takes for this finicky grape to come to full production. It is, however, becoming a darling of California wine connoisseurs and is being compared in character to some Italian Barolos. Try a Xinomavros from Naousa.