The original Mediterranean Diet
Recognized as one the healthiest and more nutritious, the diet consists of food from natural sources. Fresh and dried fruits, pulses (like lentils), wild greens, endemic wild herbs and rough cereals are eaten in great amounts.
Olive oil - main supply of fat
Almost three times more fat is consumed than what we may eat in North America. And, compared to other Mediterranean countries, olive oil represents a higher intake of daily calories, between 35-40%. The difference being that most of it is use it without it being boiled or fried. And, unlike other oils or animal based fats, olive oil mostly consists of monounsaturated fats and resists to oxidation. Cretans also consume more bread than most but it is mainly whole wheat and grain based.
Plenty of fruits and vegetables
They are both abundant throughout the Island. Oranges, grapefruits and lemons from November to April (namely a sweet orange named Mousmoula in the Spring). Apricots, plums and watermelon in the Summer. Figs and pomegranates are ripe in the Fall. Beans, lentils and wild greens like horta or stamnagathi are also main staples of the diet, and both fresh and cooked vegetables accompany every meal.
Moderate consumption of meats, dairy, alcohol and sweets
Food of animal origin is more peripheral in nature and dairy products are consumed on a daily basis in moderate quantities, mostly through cheese and yogurt. One or two glasses of wine accompany meals, and a light quantity of Tsikoudia at the end of a meal. And, the most common desserts are yogurt with fresh fruit, and pastries based of honey.
Signature plates and dishes
While the Diet consists of food from natural sources at its foundation, and not rich sauces, many local specialities define the Cretan cuisine. Books and recipes can be found easily but some of the most popular foods or dishes would be:
- Dakos: a tomato based salad, reminiscent of Bruschetta, that uses barley rusks or paximadi that is lightly soaked in water or olive oil
- Cheese pies: Sfakia or Kaltsounia, while you may find many local varieties
- Cretan lamb: with olive oil, oregano and thyme, accompanied by wild greens (stamnagathi)
- Fried zucchini or eggplant: lightly breaded, with grated Graviera
- Cretan cheeses: Graviera, myzithra or local varieties
- Snails: many local varieties usually boiled with vinegar, rosemary and olive oil
- Fresh fish, calamari and octopus: Grilled, not fried
Enjoy them all, especially while you visit Crete. And, seek out small tavernas in local villages. Ask them about their specialities and enjoy life as they do.