Every spring, Cretan mountains are covered with small colorful shrubs of well-known herbs such as oregano, thyme and sage, and lesser known herbs, such as dittany, Malotira and Marjoram. Cretans have been harvesting mountain herbs with care for centuries, and consumed them as spices or infusions to benefit for their great therapeutic qualities and amazing taste. Today, you can find Cretan herbs almost everywhere, but it is always better to buy them in specialized herb shops. But which ones you should buy? Read our brief guide to the best Cretan herbs, known for their top quality and flavor, and enjoy them in your cuisine, or as a warm infusions in the winter – and remember to add delicious Cretan honey!
Dittany or Erontas
Perhaps the most famous and rarest of all Cretan herbs, dittany, also known as erontas, is therapeutic herb with a “romantic” history. As it only grows on steep cliffs, it was collected by courageous Cretan men and offered as a love token to their girls. Due to the difficulty level, it was said that only those who were truly in love were willing to go through the process of collecting dittany. Apart from its value as a proof of love, dittany is also known from antiquity as a cure for stomach ache and for healing wounds. It is even mentioned by Hippocrates, the father of medicine. For all these reasons, but also because of its exquisite taste, you should definitely add dittany in your shopping list!
Cretan Sage (Faskomilo)
An excellent aromatic herb, a typical winter infusion for Cretans with a strong, delicious flavor. It is often combined with honey and it is often used (in small quantities) to flavor meat dishes and pasta sauces. It flowers in spring, and it is the most common Cretan herb you will encounter during your walks in Cretan mountains.
A Cretan herb with Venetian roots, as its name comes from the latin words “male” (illness) and “tirare” (drag). As declared by its name, malotira is widely used since antiquity for medicine, especially to treat colds and sore throats, but also to ease the stomach and as a diuretic. Plus, it is perhaps the tastiest of all Cretan herbs, with a full taste and wonderful aroma that makes a perfect marriage with pure Cretan honey.
Marjoram belongs to the mint family, like oregano, but has a distinctive floral taste that enriches salad dressings and marinades, especially for meat dishes. As its flavor is strong, it is better to use it in small amounts. Marjoram can also be used as an infusion, and it can be used to relieve menstrual pain, insomnia, an upset stomach and cold symptoms. Plus, it makes a nice mix with malotira!
The “queen” of Cretan herbs used for spicing up the local cuisine, oregano is found almost everywhere: on top of your feta cheese, in salads, sauces, meat and fish marinades. As for its therapeutic qualities, oregano was used as an antiseptic and to relieve toothache and stomachache. Cretan oregano is of especially high quality, and it would be a shame to leave without taking a package or two!
A Cretan classic, thyme is the most powerful Cretan herb. The famous Cretan honey actually owes its amazing taste and quality to local thyme, as bees feed on its purple flowers. It is widely used in local cuisine, especially as for meat dishes, and as an infusion, thyme is the best remedy for coughs, combined with lots of honey! Like oregano, it was used since antiquity as an antiseptic and antiparasitic me