The islands of the northern Aegean are small havens for long gastronomic itineraries. Each one offers unique flavours and gastronomical delights. Wine, ouzo, oil, honey, dairy produce, seafood, mezedes (appetizers) and sweets reveal true, flavorsome treasures to visitors. So get ready to enjoy the gastronomical wealth of each region and return from your holidays with your luggage full of local products of unique quality, as well as memories of flavors and aromas!
Perhaps the most characteristic scent of the island, second to that of the sea, is the anise used in ouzo. It was natural that Lesvos, with its long hours of sunshine and excellent variety of anise and other aromatic plants, would invent the production of ouzo and include it in its tradition over centuries. Dozens of distilleries are currently active here, with a satisfactory share in the domestic and international market.
In antiquity, the wine of Lesvos was widely sought after. Methymna wine, in particular, was so renowned that it was called the nectar of the Olympian gods. Today, individual producers are involved in winemaking, producing high quality wine; in recent years wineries that produce organic wines have emerged on Lesvos.
It is hard to picture Lesvos without its olive trees glittering beneath the sunlight. The olive tree is the symbol of Lesvos, as the island’s oil is renowned for its excellent quality and has won numerous prizes at domestic and international exhibitions. Incomparable in flavor and aroma, Lesvos olive oil is characterized by its fine-flowing texture, its unique, light, golden-yellow color, its pleasant aroma and its refined, discreet taste. There are over 11,000,000 olive trees on the island, cultivated mainly in mountainous or semimountainous regions with arid, poor soil. It is this unique feature of cultivation that gives Lesvos olive oil its delightful flavour and aroma.
If you wish to try a Lesvos-flavored meal, yourmenu must include Kalloni sardines, which,whether fresh or salted, will win you over withtheir delicious flavour.The superior taste of the Kalloni sardine is relatedto the conditions under which it grows in the bayof the same name. The ideal temperatures andwide variety of feed give the sardine its particularflavour. The papalina, as it is called locally, is smallin size, yet fat. Each year, the locals honor the fishat the Sardine Feast held at Kalloni Skala (Pier),where the feast goes on all night.
Lesvos is famous for its dairy produce. Its naturalflora and local breeds of goat and sheep ensuretop quality goat’s and sheep’s milk, which isprocessed at traditional cheese dairies, usingthe age old knowledge and craft preserved andpassed down from generation to generationover so many years. Try the island’s feta, kasseri,and graviera cheeses, as well as ladotyri (oilycheese), a hard table cheese with a strong flavourand pleasant aroma. It was named from its oldmethod of preservation, in top quality oil, whichgave it a spicier taste. Enjoy it as a table cheese, aswell as fried in a saganaki dish.
Pine honey or flower honey, as well as rarer varieties, such aschestnut tree honey and Erica honey, with their characteristicscents, can accompany your freshly baked bread during breakfast,your local sheep’s milk yoghurt or your fruit salad for a nutritious,light supper.
It is still made on Limnos in the traditional way (lakario, i.e. distillery) and is distilled twice, with or withoutaniseed, with a wonderful aroma and strong taste.
Desserts – pasta
Limnos is renowned for its tasty and pure locally produced honey, as well as for its pure and healthyLimnos halva. Limnos sweet delight is the result of a unique recipe based on sugar, glucose, starch andthe addition of varioius flavourings; on the list of flavours you must try there are also the traditional‘venizelika’ desserts (almond and chocolate fondant, covered in a vanilla glaze, dedicated to the statesmanEleftherios Venizelos), ‘samsades’, baklava, macaroons, as well as the preserves (ritselia) made fromsour cherries, quinces, figs, grapes, cherry tomatoes, baby aubergines, watermelon and courgettes.The flour produced on the island is also of excellent quality, made from hard wheat, such as mavragani,and used to make rusks, biscotti, various kinds of biscuits and delicious bread. Traditional home-madepasta, such as flomari, trachanas and aftoudia is also found on the island.
The local products of Agios Efstratios stand out for their top qualityand excellent flavour.You can enjoy your ouzo or wine accompanied with select localcheese and meat from free-range sheep and goats, as well as deliciousseafood mezedes (appetizers). After all, fresh fish and seafooddominate the local cuisine.The lobsters of Agios Efstratios steal the show, as they are consideredthe most delicious in the Aegean. They are a luxury item, notin terms of price, as they are very affordable, but in terms of flavour:they are truly unforgettable!Before leaving, don’t forget to try the renowned dry broad beansthat thrive on the island’s volcanic soil.
The mastic island
The world-famous, one-of-its-kind mastic and a wealth of otherproducts and recipes make Chios one of the most blessed locationson the planet.Visitors to the sweet-smelling Chios and the Mastichochoria (masticvillages) can sample a number of traditional products grown onthe fertile soil of the islands, including the renowned mastic. Whatmakes it unique is that although Pistacia Lentiscus grows throughoutthe Mediterranean, it only produces mastic in a single part ofChios! In recent years, many uses have been found for mastic inmedicine and cosmetics. You will find it in the form of chewinggum, bonbons, beverages and soft drinks.One should definitely visit Mastichochoria in late summer in orderto see how mastic is produced and how the ‘tree we wounded’gives us its precious ‘tears’. You will also get a taste of rural life,watching the preparation of milk and the production of localcheeses. Try fresh or preserved vegetables, such as stringed tomatoes,pickles, sea fennel, sour cherries and the renowned citrus fruit,the best-known being Chios mandarins (a Protected GeographicalIndication product).Chios desserts include unique, tasty surprises: pastelia (sesamehoney candy), jams, bonbons, sweet delight and halva pie, all preparedaccording to different traditional recipes. Don’t forget to trytraditional preserved fruit sweets that come in a variety of flavours:whole, sweet-smelling Chios mandarin, rose preserve from the petalsof the hundred-leave rose, small bitter orange, crunchy cherryand bergamot, as well as the rare, delicious preserve of lemon treeflowers.
Souma and Wine
If you are fans of raki and tsipouro, you must try the unique Chiossouma, a traditional beverage prepared using figs with a high alcoholcontent (usually 45%), which, like ouzo, turns off-white whenmixed with water. Its distillation is a feast worth attending.Wine was one of the most noteworthy and famous products ofChios in antiquity, known as ‘Ariousios Wine’. According to Theopompus,the ancient historian from Chios, the first king of theisland, a descendant of the gods, taught the residents of Chios howto plant and harvest vines and produce wine.