Perfumes, colors, and emotions. This is our Crete. Aromas that smell from the sea to the tops of its mountains, colors that are harmoniously intertwined between the olive groves and its picturesque settlements, emotions that stem from the history and traditions of this unique place. Crete has been characterized as a paradise of biodiversity and not unjustly claimed by many. Its geographical location, the close distances of the mountains and the coastal areas, the composition, and diversity of the soil compose a rare microclimate, suitable for the development of unique flora.
The object of study for many years, including the unique Cretan herbs and aromatic plants. The Cretan air has been aromatized for centuries by these herbs that can be found from the coastal areas of the island up to 2000 meters altitude. Herbs that grow naturally throughout the island, herbs that in some cases you will find in Crete and nowhere else in the world, herbs that we find in our organic lands. It is difficult to distinguish the most important of them, however among the first that come to mind and the smell of our childhood are the ones we drank as herbal tea in our grandmothers’ houses, they are the ones that lovingly flavored every culinary creation of our mothers. Malotira, dittany, marjoram, ladania, sage, oregano, rosemary, and thyme. Follow us on the unique journey of flavors and aromas of the Cretan land, a journey on the unique Cretan herbs.
Malotira, the Cretan mountain tea
The famous endemic Cretan mountain tea (Sideritis syriaca) is found on the highest mountain peaks (it grows at an altitude of over 900m) with its main population located in the western part of our island.
It owes its name to the Venetians, who about 800 years ago as conquerors knew and recognized its unique healing properties and gave it the name “maletira”. With the combination of the words ” male ” and” tirare ” (ie ” I pull ” the ” bad ”), it seems that the most well-known name of the herb emerges and which is used exclusively by the locals until our days. The use of malotira against colds, the protection it provides to blood vessels and the digestive system, but also its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, fungicidal, and antibacterial action make it a powerful weapon in the hands of the Cretans to strengthen the body. It is no coincidence that for our grandparents malotira was the first herbal tea they drank as soon as they felt some stomach or respiratory discomfort. Modern studies have shown the presence of 34 substances in the essential oil of malotira, substances with anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, detoxifying, and other properties.
During the period of the beginning of flowering until the full flowering, when the collection takes place, the estate with our Malotira plants on the plateau of Omalos is an impressive spectacle, a golden – green “carpet” stretches in front of us and the imposing peaks of the White Mountains around make the landscape even more special.
An endemic plant of Crete with world fame, dittany is known since the Minoan era and with special references to its medicinal and healing properties by experts of antiquity such as Hippocrates, Theophrastus and Dioscorides.
Diktamos in antiquity was considered a cure for all ailments, stomach, digestive system, spleen, rheumatism and arthritis, but also dystocia as first mentioned by Hippocrates. Even the most famous “magician” of children’s books and movies “Harry Potter” used it to heal the wounds of the heroes of the series, making use of one of the most important healing properties of the herb, which acts as a healer.
Dittany (Origanum dictamnus) is an endemic herb of Crete and its name comes from the words Dikti (mountain of Crete) and shrub. Its largest populations are found in the eastern part of the island, while it is known by many popular names, each of which refers to some of its properties. Thus, it is called Erontas or Eros, Stamatochorto, Adichtaios, Stomatochorto, Stomachochorto. According to tradition, one theory for naming it as love is that it was so named, because the points that naturally arise are so steep and difficult to approach that only someone in love would risk approaching and cutting it, offering it to his beloved as a sign of faith and eternal love.
At the places where we find Malotira, we will meet another endemic and very aromatic plant of the island. The Cretan marjoram (Origanum microphyllum) is a “pair” with malotira not only in the mountains of the island but also in the unique botanical mixtures that the locals used to drink from ancient times. It is related to oregano and dittany but it has its own special and characteristic aroma, which really fascinates us. A delicate and at the same time intense aroma, enclosed in a plant with very small purple flowers and gray-green leaves, beautifully arranged in long slender shoots. Marjoram looks fragile but manages to survive in the adverse conditions of the mountain tops of Crete for centuries!
Cretan pink Rockrose (Cistus creticus) is a herb with beautiful flowers, aromatic, medicinal and beekeeping. The stem and its leaves contain a characteristic balsamic resin aromatic substance, the oil.
Its medicinal properties have been known since antiquity, but in recent years they have become increasingly popular worldwide, gaining the interest of those who love herbal teas and are looking for alternative ways to strengthen their body. A plant rich in polyphenols with strong antioxidant activity. The ancients used the oil in incense and ointments while attributing to the herb anti-rheumatic, heating, and antiseptic properties.
During the flowering period, our favorite pastime is photographing the bees that collect pollen from the beautiful flowers of this herb. Each of the countless flowers of each plant remains open for a single day, so it makes sense to use all its charm so that in such a short journey it manages to attract as many visitors as possible.
Sage is also an herb known since antiquity and our ancestors used it as a panacea (a medicine for everything!) While it is typical that the name of the genus Salvia comes from the Latin verb “salvare” which means save lives.
It is an important source of rosmarinic acid, which has a number of interesting biological activities, e.g. antiviral, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant, while reports on its properties have been made by Dioscorides, Aetius, Hippocrates, and Galen. In Crete, we find two species of sage, the trilobite (Salvia fruticosa) and the apple (Salvia pomifera). Trilovo is used as an herbal tea but also in the culinary creations of the Cretans, giving a special aroma. The apple is used more like an insect repellent with a very strong aroma!
The beautiful purple inflorescences of both species are characteristic of the species and could well be used as ornamental plants. Every night we make sure to have a fragrant sage pouch under our pillow. A little protection from mosquitoes, a little freshness that makes us feel, the key is to have a natural and relaxing sleep.
The aroma of oregano (Origanum vulgare) is probably the first thing that comes to mind when we talk about Cretan traditional dishes. Blessed again, Crete has the right microclimate so that the oregano found on the island has recorded the highest percentage of essential oils in the world. The word “oregano” comes from the Greek “mountain” (mountain) and “ganos” which means bright, so “oregano” means “bright mountain”, and the view of the mountains with herbs is indeed bright, as the white flowers they shine like pearls under the Cretan sun!
Like almost all the herbs of Crete, it has been used since antiquity with oregano. The ancients used it as a spice but also as a medicine. Dioskourides recommended it to those who showed loss of appetite while oregano decoction was believed to cure abdominal cramps and treat poisoning. The image of our grandparents hanging – almost reverently – bunches of wild oregano upside down in the cellar is the first thing that comes to mind when we smell even today its aroma, a fragrance that forced us then the first bite on the table to be from the village salad, an aroma that even today tickles our palate in its memory.
On the edges of the roads to the mountains of the island during the summer the mountains are decorated with small purple shrubs, which compose a characteristic “Cretan” landscape. If we approach them, we will distinguish their unique aroma while it is almost certain that many bees will surround them. This is of course the thyme (Thymbra capitata). The most famous beekeeping plant of the island with its beautiful appearance and unique properties.
Its name comes from the word “thymos” which has roots in ancient Greek and the verb “thio” which means sacrifice. Greek cuisine honors it and is used to flavor many traditional dishes. Over the centuries it has been used to stimulate brain function, against melancholy, as an aphrodisiac but also against sore throat, whooping cough, as an herb with antiseptic and antibacterial properties.
One of the protagonists of Greek cuisine, rosemary is one of the most famous aromatic plants of our country. The herb is an endemic plant of Greece and the rest of the Mediterranean, while one can find it in mountainous and coastal areas in Crete, the Peloponnese, Evia and other islands.
The herb has acquired various names over the centuries. In Crete it is known as arismari, while in the rest of Greece you can find it as ivanodendro, lasmari, dousmarini, livanotis, diosmarini and lesmari. Its Latin name “Rosmarinus officinalis” translates to “sea dew” or “sea rose”, while the ancient Greeks considered it a gift from the goddess Aphrodite. According to Christian tradition, the Virgin Mary rested her mantle on the plant, resulting in its flowers turning blue. This is how it got its modern name in English, “Rosemary”, “rose of Mary”.
Its medicinal properties have been known since antiquity, where students used to wear rosemary wreaths in their hair during their exams to stimulate their memory. According to ancient healers and modern research, the herb improves blood circulation to the brain, resulting in headaches and migraines. It is also considered to help fight depression as it can improve our mood. Its active ingredient, known as carnosic acid, can protect the brain from Alzheimer’s, while also improving the symptoms of normal brain aging. In addition, studies show that the herb helps prevent cancer, has antimicrobial, antiseptic, and anti-corrosion properties.
It is very popular in cooking and is one of the main ingredients of Cretan cuisine. Fresh or dried rosemary leaves are used in soups, boiled meats, and poultry. Its antimicrobial action helps preserve the meat, while if you use it during cooking it fights the cancer factors created in the meat by the high cooking temperature. Rosemary essential oil gives its characteristic aroma to several non-alcoholic infusions, while in confectionery you can find it in pastries.
The Herbs of Crete
Each of the herbs of Crete has its own history associated with the traditions and beliefs of the inhabitants of the island. The many uses and the benefits for the human body from their consumption are multiple, benefits that have been proven by the use of generations and generations and in recent years are certified by the modern scientific community. To close in a text perfume, colors, and emotions of our island are difficult, some will think! But to put in a box something from the soul of this place is a challenge that can become a reality, we will say! Our passion for what we love led us to the cultivation of unique Cretan herbs and from the beginning we envisioned their journey around the world giving all nature lovers the opportunity to “live again a little from nature” …
We are Rodo and Nikos
We are tofillo