The herbs of Crete are the essence of wonderful Cretan dishes known for their brilliant flavours and tastes.
Aromatic Herbs of Crete
If you travel to Crete ruing the spring season, you’ll find our island is blooming. The landscapes are at their greenest. Look out across the fields, by the seaside, next to the roads, out in the farms and in every garden to encounter colourful flowers, bountiful plants and scattered among them will be the aromatic herbs of Crete.
Herbs are essential to Greek cuisine. In fact, they are the backbone of many of Crete’s famous dishes. They also can be the cure for what ails you.
There are more than 130 species of wildflowers and herbs that are native to Crete. On your travels to Crete, you can pinpoint some of the most popular while you order in a restaurant or browse through a food shop selling local products. Here is our list of some of our favourite herbs of Crete.
Herbs of Crete: A Rundown
Thyme - Thymari
The summer is the season for thyme. Its large blue flowers bloom in June and July. Crete also has an abundance of white thyme. It is essential in producing one of Greece’s most exceptional products: honey.
Another reason why Cretans love using thyme is that it has many health benefits. It’s known to be an excellent antiseptic, diuretic and anti-parasitic.
Mint - Menta
Mint is out in full bloom in the summer months too. During June and August, locals will be on the lookout for this precious herb. Besides being a wonderful flavour in salads, jams and slow-cooked Cretan dishes, it has numerable health benefits. Mint is known to fight against indigestion and help with those who have insomnia.
Oregano - Rigani
Oregano, with its pretty white flowers, is one of the staple herbs of the Mediterranean. In Greece, it is collected in June and July. It is used abundantly in the Cretan kitchen to add a magnificent and distinct flavour to both meat and seafood plates. Oregano is great for your health too. It is known to have antioxidants and to have antibacterial properties.
Sage - Faskomilo
Sage has a long history as a culinary necessity and a medicinal herb. It is considered one of the most common herbs of Crete. It has a distinct, beautiful fragrance which is wonderful to experience as you walk outdoors beginning each spring in May. In Cretan food, it is used to “spice” up many meat-based dishes.
Dittany – Diktamo or Erontas
One of the most favourite herbs of Crete is dittany. It is often brewed as a tea. Its name comes from the Dikti Range in the Lassithi Mountains, but it can be found among most mountainscapes across the island where it grows between rocks, on cliffs and in gorges. Dittany is said to have many positive health benefits including as an antiseptic, an antioxidant and even as an aphrodisiac. That’s why Cretans also call this herb erontas (which refers to love).
Malotira – Mantzourana
One of the most common herbs you’ll find in any Greek household is malotira which is known as mountain tea. It blooms every summer, and many Cretans scour barren and dry landscapes to collect this precious herb in July. As a tea brew, malotira is not only relaxing, but it is considered a healing agent for stomach disorders and a way to fight the common cold.
Linden Flower - Tilio
This herb is aromatic and medicinal. Its flowers are brewed into an extraordinary tea. Sipping, it is excellent for the body. It is said to help to cure colds, promote weight loss and help with digestion. You’ll see this herb bloom in the summer months during June and July.
Rosemary - Dentrolivano
This needle-like, evergreen, bushy shrub can be found throughout the Mediterranean. It is used in many dishes in Crete including the best-known snail dish in Crete called chochlioi boubouristi. Rosemary is also known to have antibacterial and antiseptic properties.
That’s a short rundown of some of our favourite herbs of Crete. There are dozens more we can tell you about. Have you ever tried any in your home cooking, as a tea or to cure an illness?