Gastronomy and local products
Anyone travelling through Lesvos feels a strong sense that it is an island which sets itself apart for preserving a traditional texture and resisting the leveling affect of extreme modernity which afflict many urban, as well as rural regions of Greece. Older, in as mush as newer generations remain , to a large extent, loyal to traditional standards of nutrition, marked by high demand for homegrown agricultural and meat products. The island’s procedure constitutes the basic ingredients of Mediterranean cuisine, whose role is paramount to healthy nutrition. The production of ouzo, cultivation of olives and excellent olive-oil, dairy products and fish products are for the islanders, a part of their local tradition.
Olive –olive from Mytilene
The Golden oil! The olive groves of Lesvos stretch from the high mountain tops to the shores of the island, many times reaching the sea. Inevitably, olive oil became the main product of the island supporting livelihoods and contributing to the entrepreneurial boom for generations. Lesvos is today one of the largest olive oil-producing areas in Greece.
Oil since antiquity, has had apart from nutritional, pharmaceutical, cosmetic and lighting uses. Today it constitutes the basis of Mediterranean nutrition, where it’s nourishing, biological and therapeutic properties are constantly documented scientifically.
It constitutes the only source of polyunsaturated fatty acids (commonly known as Vitamin F) as well as of many other vitamins essential for human health.
There is now evidence that olive oil assists in the prevention of heart disease and other ailments, which make its contribution to health and longevity exnremely important.
Amongst the great achievement in the traditional art of distilling in Greece, ouzo too occupies its distinctive place on the island, dominating the market in Greece and abroad. Ouzo from Mytilene, has deservedly become famed as the finest produced in Greece at the moment and not merely.
Ouzo is linked with everyday life in Lesvos more than in any other region in Greece, since it has always been a necessary supplement in the entertainment of a group of people or a wider social circle. Traditionally, the time for ouzo is not a time for eating – it is a ritual. Contrary to the imported hard alcoholic beverages, ouzo is consumed by people that drink together while snacking and talking. This is why it is rightfully referred to as the “drink of the company”. The titbits that accompanied ouzo were simple and offered in a small plate that included tomato pieces, olives, onion, octopus or bean soup, whereas one of the best ouzo titbits is dry salted fish. Today, the tradition that associates ouzo with simple and tasty titbits has been preserved in the island, as ouzo and titbits are considered an appetizer in Lesvos as well as in the rest of Greece. Ouzo is still served with traditional dishes such as anchovies, legumes and braised beans and a variety of exceptional local specialties, such as dry salted sardines, roasted octopus, vine leaves stuffed with rice, etc. The rare ouzo titbit recipes represent a vast gourmet heritage of unique quality that dates back to ancient times. The “ouzo-excitement” is a unique combination of entertainment, socialization and good life that constantly gains ground in international culinary preferences.
Salted fish (‘Alipasta’)
Another characteristic product from Lesvos is salted fish. The traditional process and standardization takes place according to exact traditional method, that is a specific art passed on from generation to generation and improved with experience and constant practice. The types of fish processed in the small industries are sardines, mackerel, anchovies and tuna. Processing of fish takes place in a particular manner, in which salt is used as the means of treatment and preservation, without use of any other additive. The means of preparation is based entirely on tradition and is carried out by hand without the use of any machinery. There is no substitute for the human hand.
Cheese products are one of the main categories of goods produced in the island of Lesvos.
Animal breeding is favored by the volcanic regions and the large number of pastures in conjunction with the moderate climate. The rich flora, the terrain and the climate have an impact on the quality of milk used in dairy products, whereas the secrets of cheese making are communicated from generation to generation and play a vital role in the unique taste of local cheese products. The island’s cheese products are recognized internationally and are given a Designation of Origin. Out of the twenty Greek types of cheese that are currently protected by the E.U., three of them come from Lesvos. Hence, the local production of cheese products offers a series of special flavors and cheese varieties, such as Ladotyri, Eressos kasseri cheese and Feta cheese, which are PDO products, as well as traditional types of cheese, namely graviera cheese, touloumotyri and two types of myzithra cheese (fresh and
dry). Cheese products play a fundamental role in local recipes and the gourmet culture of the island, since most of the local dishes are based on these special cheese varieties, which add a unique taste in the island’s traditional cuisine.
“Ladotyri” (Traditional cheese of Mytilene): One of the most renowned products of Lesvos is ladotyri. Traditional machinery for making ladotyri cheese guarantees its distinct organoleptic properties, given that they process the exceptionally constituted and quality sheep’s milk of the region.
The human factor is determinative in the preservation of the traditional character of ladotyri, as it has constituted the tool of cultural expression of island conditions and traditions, knowledge and ‘craftsmanship” inherited by the locals from their predecessors.