Explore the Mediterranean Diet in Crete

Crete, the largest of the Greek islands, has a rich, living history. It is known for its distinctive culture, including Mantinades poetry, music and dance. Crete was a cradle of civilisation, the home of the ancient Minoan people. Known as the “first link in the European chain,” their civilisation flourished for more than ten centuries in the Bronze Age, and after that, Crete was under the rule of the Greeks, Romans, Venetians and Turks, punctuated by periods of independence. In Crete, you’ll find storied ruins and historic towns; beautiful vistas and a rich culture. You’ll also find a rich culinary heritage. Today, it’s called “the Mediterranean Diet.”

Greek salad

The Mediterranean Diet

Throughout southern Europe and the area around the Mediterranean Sea, the traditional ways of eating are variations on the much-lauded Mediterranean Diet. Rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, olive oil, fish, bread, rice and pasta and with nuts, meat, yogurt, cheese, sweets and wine as enhancements, the Mediterranean Diet is as delicious and satisfying as it is healthy. Many scientific studies have shown that people who eat a Mediterranean-style diet and stay physically active tend to live long and healthy lives.

The Mediterranean diet makes eating a pleasure. The staples of a Mediterranean diet are fresh, tasty, varied and satisfying. Meat, alcohol and sweets are enjoyed in moderation. It’s a way of eating with a natural sense of proportion, where variety is appreciated. It’s a healthy way of eating that is focused on quality and enjoyment rather than restriction and self-denial. What could be more enjoyable than exploring one of the local food cultures at the root of the Mediterranean diet?

Cretan Cuisine

It is no hardship to eat like a Cretan. The people of Crete eat well. Crete’s economy is based on agriculture, not tourism. With its rich plains and valleys covered with olive trees and vineyards added to the abundance of the surrounding sea, Crete has an enviable food culture. The wine and olive oil are locally produced, traditionally processed and wonderful. The warm, sunny climate is perfect for growing delicious fruits and vegetables, and the Cretans also raise sheep and goats for dairy products and meat. Their cheese and yogurt are fantastic, and their deserts are usually sweetened by fresh honey. This is a place where the ordinary food is truly extraordinary.

Although formal restaurants can be found in the touristy areas, often the best and most memorable Cretan meals are served in traditional tavernas off the beaten path. Choose from among the dishes on display; the menus are for tourists, and often the day’s specials are better. Try the fish soup, the fava bean stew and the delicious local variations on dolmades, or stuffed vine leaves. Gamopilafo, or wedding pilaff, is rice cooked in a rich meat stock. If you’re in Crete in the spring, don’t miss the fresh artichokes.

Paximadia, or rucks, are a type of hard, twice-baked bread, often made with rough-ground barley or rye flour. They are delicious with meals and sweet variations are available, too. Cretan baking, often involving filo dough and citrus, is not to be missed, and the cheeses are fantastic. Enjoy Cretan specialties like graviera, either fresh or aged, and myzithra, which is reminiscent of ricotta.

Visitors to Crete will find that the road network is extensive and fairly easy to navigate. To enjoy all that the island has to offer, opt for car rental in Crete when booking your flight. There’s no need to stay in just one place. Visit the vineyards and the olive orchards and enjoy a traditional Mediterranean diet at the best restaurants and tavernas Crete has to offer.