A world of bitter greens

The Cretan plant based diet is enhanced by bitter greens, cultivated or handpicked on Cretan mountains. They are consumed raw, boiled or cooked; for example in red sauce and accompanied by potatoes. They also form part of delicious cretan green pies (“xortopites”). Bitter greens apart from being full of A, C and K vitamins, fiber, potassium and folate, they also have amazing body cleansing properties. They help food and fat digestion, regulate cholesterol levels and perform blood detoxification. In general they are great allies to our digestion system and they assist the function of human bowels.

Cretans consume copious amounts of wild and cultivated bitter greens at all seasons of the year. Of course this requires people to be able to recognize them in the wild and to put the effort of collecting them (quite a tiresome but altogether healthy activity!). Fortunately almost all Cretan families have members mastering the great skill of picking wild greens.Bitter greens are seasonal, i.e., most types grow in autumn and winter time while few grow in summer. As mentioned before, some bitter green varieties are also cultivated and could be bought at street markets and groceries throughout Crete and Greece. Such cultivated greens are: “vlita”, “stamnagathi”, cultivated chicories (“radikia”), “tsimoulia”. Typical examples of wild greens collected and consumed in Crete are: wild chicories (“agria radikia”), “goules” (also known as “askolimpri”), “tsitsirista xorta”, “agria sparagia”, “vrouves”, “avronies” etc (the list is endless!).