Greek Art of Living off the Land

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Woman holding some tomatoesThe Greek people have been living off the land for centuries, and many of the “old ways” are alive and well. While people in westernized cultures experience depleted farmland, poor food quality, and a diet that is high in unhealthy foods, the people in many parts of Greece are still thriving with excellent health and vitality. Not only that, but their cuisine is one of the healthiest and tastiest in the world! Rich in fresh produce, whole grains, olive oil, seafood, and moderate amounts of meat, the food in Greece is both healthy and delicious.

Greeks Work the Land

The secret is that they work the land whenever possible. For those who own their own land, it’s Crate of vegetablespossible to cultivate large gardens and raise their own animals. The types of crops that are grown depend on where they are. Though the landscape is varied, there’s always something that will grow!

Those who don’t have a lot of land still find ways to eat fresh, whole foods.  City balconies are filled with fresh foods, and the people work their container gardens daily. There are also plenty of opportunities to harvest wild foods, such as the wild greens that grow strong in the forests and in the mountains. For example, each winter, the people of Crete hike through the mountains to find all their favorite greens to make horta and hortopita. 

They also raise their own animals if they have the space, and they know which food to let them eat in order to get the best tasting meat. While speaking with a woman in the Cretan countryside, for example, I learned that the fresh carob pods that the goats love to nibble make the meat tender and delicious.

They Eat With the Seasons

To the Greek people, eating fresh, natural foods is a way of life. It also makes eating healthy food a pleasurable experience. They look forward to when healthy foods are in season, and they won’t settle for anything less than the freshest foods. Numerous restaurants and tavernas throughout Greece embrace this idea, as well. When visiting a local taverna, it’s possible that they’ll simply tell you what they have. There are no menus, only fresh foods.

picking mintThe idea of eating something that isn’t fresh and natural is almost unthinkable. People wait with eagerness for the perfect time to pluck the tomatoes off the vine. They wouldn’t dream of eating something when it’s out of season because to them, it means that it won’t taste as good. They understand that when the seasons change, so will their food choices. This is something that isn’t well known here in the United States because most produce is available year round, no matter how it tastes.

Part of the joy that the Greek people derive from eating lies in the anticipation. To them, it’s worth it to wait to eat the food when it’s completely in season. Pick something too soon or too late, and they know that it can destroy the flavor. Once the harvest is ready, people are ready to cook and eat all their favorite treats. They’ve turned the daily pursuit of living off the land into an art!

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This post was written by Greek Boston

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