Eco-Friendly Foodies Explore the Birthplace of the Mediterranean Diet

Thomas Münter/CC BY 2.0
Fall in the hills of Crete.

Harvesting olives in the winter, scouring the hills for wild herbs in spring, tending an organic garden in the summer. These are among the rituals of rural life on the Greek island of Crete -- and a draw for eco-friendly foodies looking to discover the cultural and culinary heritage of the place famed as the source of the healthy "Mediterranean diet."

"Sustainable organic farming and artisan production is still a way of life for more people [in Greece than] we might imagine," Nikki Rose, the Greek-American founder of Crete's Culinary Sanctuaries told the ecotourism magazine ECOCLUB.

Culinary Eco-Tourism Of Crete
A trained chef, Rose moved to Crete, where her grandmother was born, in 1998 and began building a network of organic farmers, chefs, fishermen, mountaineers, historians, artisanal food producers, and other local experts who now share their knowledge about the island's culture, nature, and -- of course -- food, with small groups of culinary eco-tourists.

"[The tours] tell the story of cuisine from the ground up -- via visits to archaeological sites, sustainable organic farms, and presentations by many other residents of Crete working to celebrate and protect their cultural and natural heritage," Rose told GreekReporter.com recently.

Pavlos Bernarde/CC BY 2.0
A street market in Crete.

Trips change with the seasons but may include botanical hikes to discover wild plants used for medicine and cooking, tastings at organic vineyards, seminars and cooking demonstrations in local kitchens and gardens, visits to historical sites, local music evenings, and other interactions with people who are practicing traditional trades.

Industrialized Food Encroaching
But even with such a bounty of fresh food -- seafood, fruits and vegetables, herbs, olive oil, cheese, bread, legumes -- rural Crete and the rest of Greece are not immune to the unhealthy temptations of fast food and processed food.

"While the rest of the world is studying the traditional diet of Crete (pre-1960) so many Greeks have adopted the worst diet in the world -- what is referred to as 'the Western diet' of industrialized food. It’s very tragic," Rose told GreekReporter.com. "If we do not support the next generation of sustainable organic farmers, we are losing our great culinary heritage."

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Tags: Farming | Greece | Organic Agriculture | Tourism | Wine