The island of wild mushrooms

Cretans love to eat the great varieties of wild mushrooms (“omanites”) that grow on the island. Mushrooms are fungi full of fiber, protein and vitamins (mainly of the B group and also D when exposed to sun). They also have antioxidants, potassium and copper. It should be noted that they are low in calories and their high protein content makes them a good healthy alternative to meat.

The most common edible wild mushroom of Crete is called “artikitis”, having a characteristic grey/white colour (it can grow huge!). Its name comes from the fact that it grows on the root of a plant named “artikas” (ferula communis). At spring time there are thousands of them, especially in central Crete. Cretans collect them and usually eat them pan fried in extra virgin olive oil. Alternatively they can be grilled or play the main ingredient of a vegan casserole dish, such as a mushroom “stifado”. Note that not anyone can go and collect mushrooms; one should be able to distinguish edible from toxic mushrooms. So if you wish to collect mushrooms do not just venture out but look for an experienced local guide.

Of course, apart from wild mushrooms, Cretans eat a great deal of cultivated mushrooms available in all grocery stores. So you can also try mushroom specialities with conventional mushrooms.