Greek Mahleb: Cooking and Medicinal Info

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Although mahleb (Prunus mahlab), or μαχλέπι (mahlepi), is used in Greek cuisine, it isn’t something that is used in everyday cooking. In fact, the only time the spice makes an appearance is when making the celebratory breads that are made at Easter, Christmas, and New Year’s. During the early days of Greek migration to other parts of the world, many of these recipes were rewritten to use cinnamon, lemon rind, or anise seeds instead since mahleb wasn’t readily found. That isn’t the case today and it is easy enough to order mahleb online or buy it from a specialty shop.

Where is Mahleb from in Greece?

Mahleb comes from the Prunus mahalab plant, which is a member of the cherry family. The tree is a native plant of the Mediterranean. The spice actually comes from the inner kernel that is found within the seeds of the plant. The kernel is dried and either sold as the whole kernel or sold already ground. For the best flavor, it is much better to buy the whole kernel and grind it yourself before preparing the recipe. You can buy the spice in markets throughout Greece, specialty stores, or online.

How Does Mahleb Taste?

Mahleb has a mild, delicately sweet flavor that delicately flavors the sweetbreads that are served on special occasions in Greece. Because the flavor is so mild, it is best to grind the whole kernels only when you need them. When you buy mahleb already ground, you lose a lot of the flavor that way.

What Greek Recipes Use Mahleb?

ChristopsomoTsourekia, Vasilopita

Interesting Facts About Mahleb

Basically, you can use mahleb spice in any sweet desserts you want, even if the recipes don’t call for that spice. In addition to being traditionally used to flavor the sweet breads that are served at New Year’s, Christmas, and Easter, it can also be added to other desserts, such as rice pudding (rizogolo), galaktoboureko, and even baklava. Since mahleb can be difficult to find outside of Greece, many of the dessert recipes that taste wonderful with a pinch of mahleb thrown in, such as the sweet breads that are served during holidays, often use other spices like anise, cinnamon, or even lemon or orange rind, instead.

Sources:

Wikipedia – Mahleb

Wikipedia – Prunus mahaleb

Many Greek recipes are different based on the region of Greece and family traditions, so uses of the herbs and spices contained on this page may vary.

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This post was written by GreekBoston.com