Let’s learn finally the wild edible plants of Crete!

A workshop organised with my friend Joelle (who happened to have a yurt in Crete) and guided by Grandma Olga who knows the best horta and isn’t afraid to share it with the public.

Horta is a culinary word you shortly learn when you come to Crete, the cradle of Mediterranean diet. It is a generic name used for all sorts of wild edible plants. Plants that most people would regard as weeds. Nature abundantly provides them for us (and the goats and sheep roaming around), but it is a forgotten knowledge to recognise, collect and cook these aromatic and medicinal plants for a healthy and tasty choice on the table. The privilege of old ladies (and their husbands) who have been collecting these greens in their entire lives should be picked up by the following generations on the road of awakening and building a new ecological society.

Some books are available on the subject, and one of the most practical compositions I have come across so far is ‘Η Άγρια βρώσιμη χλωρίδα της Κρήτης / Wild edible plants of Crete’ by Kleonikos G. Stavridakis. Being a bilingual edition, this book is ideal for an English-speaker who has an open heart to Greek culture, language and more focussed on Ethnobotany. Sadly, the book is currently out of print and after me having been searched for months, my friend Joelle found out that the author still has a very few copies available. Lucky us!

Needless to say, reading about wild edible plants of Crete is exciting, but does not replace field walks and doing the real job! So Joelle hooked up with Grandma Olga finding her in the reputation as the best teacher in the area (maybe in the whole island – Kiria Olga was even featured on television, if that matters) and asked her to give us the opportunity to learn more.

Such a Wild Edible Plant Walk is not only a great way to be in nature, enjoy breathtaking landscapes, exercise in fresh air, but also lets us create a healthy diet in an economic way. Really plenty of opportunities to find a nice goal for a day. On such an occasion we can meet new people with similar interests. It is lots of fun within a group digging in the dirt and trying to identify lookalike green creatures, and it also opens the gates and appetite for a come-back to enjoy some peaceful time whenever you go collecting wild edible plants yourself. Keep reading under the pictues >>

We started a study circle with Grandma Olga on a Sunday 10th January, 2016. On the first plant walk we learnt 6 different ‘horta’ with her – namely galatsida/γαλατσίδα (reichardia picroides), tsohos/τσόχος (sonchus sp), provatina/προβατίνα, kafkalida/καυκαλίδα, hiromourides/χοιρομουρίδες (helminthotheca echioides), syrida/συρίδα (crepis spp). To make learning more tricky, be aware that as it happens in folk traditions, the names of the wild edible plants might vary across the regions, may even be called differently from village to village. Never mind, start picking, go cleaning, cook them all and have a fiesta together with great friends and/or family.

We will continue gathering on more Sundays over the season whenever the weather permits. Meeting is usually at 10:00 in the morning at Joelle’s yurt in the village of Paidochori and expect to finish the day late afternoon with a properly full stomach.

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