Greece enjoys a wide variety of agricultural products. Olives and olive oil, cheeses, wines, mastic and saffron are but a few of the products that have won international acclaim as Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and received important distinctions for their quality and particularly delectable characteristics. These are a result not only of the richness of Greek soil, but also the passion and traditional knowledge handed down through the generations to their producers. Greece ranks among the first in the EU, regarding the list of agricultural products registered as protected designation of origin (PDO), protected geographical indication (PGI) or Traditional Specialty Guaranteed (TSG) products, with approximately 94 entries. These products are olive oils, table olives, cheese, honey, fruits, vegetables, cereals, bread, pastry, fish and related products, other products of animal origin, gums and natural resins, essential oils and other products. See more.
Crocus Kozanis- Greek Red Saffron
Although, about 20 species of saffron are native to Greek flora, nowadays, Crocus sativus is the only species being cultivated, in the rural area outside of the city of Kozani, in northern Greece. In 1971, the Cooperative of Saffron Producers of Kozani was formed; since then the cooperative has had the exclusive responsibility of harvesting, sorting, processing, packaging and trading the whole crocus production. Greek Red Saffron is internationally considered to be the best saffron variety, while as of 1992 it has entered the “Register of protected designations of origin and protected geographical indications”. See more.
A traditional fish roe delicacy, Bottarga, or in Greek “Avgotaraho” is Greece’s answer to caviar. It is produced from the eggs of the female Flathead mullet, “mugil cephalus”, indigenous to the Greek lagoon in Mesologgi, which is caught from mid August until the early days of October. The production process has not changed much through the years. Once the fish is caught, the whole roe pouches are removed, washed with water, salted with natural sea salt, dried under the sun, and sealed in layers of melted natural beeswax.
The beeswax provides a natural way of shielding the product from oxidation while allowing it to keep its humidity. The result is a hard slab of rare and precious sea-food deliciousness. It has a characteristic spicy flavour and aroma, but is also appreciated for its nutritional value, notably its high content in essential Omega 3 fatty acids.
Chios Mastiha (Mastic)
Mastic is the unique agricultural PDO product of the mastic tree, which only prospers in the south part of Chios. It is a natural, aromatic resin in teardrop shape, falling on the ground in drops from superficial scratches induced by cultivators on the tree’s trunk and main branches.
Scientific research has shown that this resin has anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory qualities.
Chios mastiha has been recognized since ancient times both for its distinctive aroma and its healing properties. It has been recorded as the first natural chewing gum in the ancient world. There is evidence that cultivation and exploitation of mastic originates in ancient years, during the Hellenistic period.
Chios mastiha, exported from Chios to all over the world, is the basis for the production of a great variety of mastiha products, such as: bakery products, sweets, jams, ice-creams, chocolates, chewing gums, candies, beverages, tea, coffee, dairy products, pasta, sauces, liquors, ouzo and wine. In addition, it has a variety of applications and uses in pharmaceutical and chemical industry, in cosmetics and perfume industry. See more.
Meli Elatis Menalou Vanilla
Meli Elatis Menalou Vanilla is the only fir honey with Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). It is produced from the black fir tree of Menalo Mountain in Arcadia and it’s a renowned product for its taste and its little sugar concentration. It is light-coloured and evokes something between caramel and vanilla. This type of honey is not collected from the blossoms but from honeydew (resin) that is produced by certain microorganisms on the trunk of the black fir. One of its unique features aside from the low level of glucose, is that even after years it never crystallizes.
The famous Cretan Rusks, also known as paximadi, are PDO products and made with a simple but unique recipe that has been passed through generations and is tied with Greek history. The Double Baked barley rusk is one of the basics of Mediterranean diet and the hero of the Cretan “Dakos” salad, with feta or cottage cheese, tomatoes, olives and olive oil.
Lamb is a good source of vitamin B12 and also provides important amounts of the B vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, folate, biotin, pantothenic acid and choline. In Greece, unlike the rest of Europe, lambs and goats aren’t confined in organized stables and farms so they enjoy free pasture thus their meat has the greatest taste. Due to the same reason, their free range meat contains neither hormones nor antibiotics. The lamb and goat of Elassona is a product of protected designation of origin (PDO).
Fruit and Vegetables / Pulses / Nuts
Fruits and vegetables have a very important role in the Greek economy and in society as well since they are a basic component of the Greek nutrition. Due to the propitious weather conditions, Greece has many advantages in fruit and vegetable production. Greece produces about 27 PDO and PGI products among which are unique varieties of Kiwi fruit, cherries, peaches, mandarins, koum kouat, oranges, potatoes, tomatoes and eggplant.
Pulses and especially beans have always been essential to the Greek table. Dishes made from pulses are vegetarian and combine the healthiest parts of the Mediterranean diet. Today, pulses are status symbols for healthy eating. They contain high percentages of protein, iron, and fiber; little to no fat; no cholesterol; and significant amounts of other minerals, such as potassium, zinc, and magnesium.
The PDO list of Greece include the Santorini fava beans and the giant beans, as well as peanuts in nuts PDO list and raisins in dried fruit PDO list.
Cheese made from sheep’s/goat’s milk was a common food in ancient Greece and an integral component of later Greek gastronomy. According to Greek mythology, the art of cheese-making was a gift to mankind by the Olympian Gods. Most of Greek Cheeses are produced from sheep and goat milk. The fact that many of them are nowadays copied, verifies their superior quality compared to similar products produced in other countries from cow’s milk. The Protected Designation of Origin list includes 25 traditional cheeses, among which the famous Feta cheese, as well as other varieties such as Kasseri, Kefalograviera, Manouri, Galotyri, Kopanisti, Graviera Kritis, Graviera Naxou, Graviera Agrafon, Sfela, Anevato, Kalathaki Limnou, Katiki Domokou, Pichtogalon Chanion, San Michali and Formaella Arahovas Parnassou.
Olives and Olive oil
Ancient Greeks used olives as their main source of fat instead of animal fat which they considered unhealthy. Olive oil was not just a food, but a symbol of health and strength. Specifically, in ancient Greece, athletes rubbed it all over their body because they believed it would give them strength and luck. The olympic winners prize was just a wreath of wild olive. That is how valuable the olive tree was for the Greeks.
The nutritional value of olive oil is undeniable, as it contains valuable nutrients for the body and health in general, including vitamins, minerals, fiber, minerals and monounsaturated fatty acids. Olive oil is the main ingredient of the food pyramid to the Mediterranean diet, which is a standard healthy diet, as prevents and treats various diseases while offering and longevity. The PDO list includes 12 different olive varieties, which includes the famous Kalamata olive and olive oil origin from certain demarcated areas.
PDO Wines of Greece include the Greek wine category of AOC – “Controlled Appellation of Origin” and AOQS – “Designation of Origin of Superior Quality”.
The AOC wines zones are historically and geographically determined winegrowing areas. AOC wines, which must be vinified by wineries located within their zones, carry a mandatory characteristic blue band on the neck of their bottles, must meet all the prerequisites of AOQS wines and, additionally, have higher specifications as to their content in sugars. They are exclusively sweet wines which are produced by certain specifications.
The areas where AOQS wines are produced are in essence the historical winegrowing and winemaking areas of Greece. In those areas, winegrowing zones determined on the basis of the borders of communal municipalities have been established, together with certain restrictions regarding altitudes or natural and artificial limits. With the exception of two areas, varietal compositions are determined strictly on the basis of Greek native grape varieties. All zones are subject to restrictions as to the maximum allowable yields per 0.1 hectare and various other prerequisites which wines must comply with. Especially AOQS wines, which carry a mandatory characteristic red band on the neck of their bottles, must be produced by wineries located within their winegrowing zone. In other words, it is not only the grapes which must originate within a certain zone: the wineries vinifying them must be established within that zone as well.
PDO Wines of Greece (AOQS and AOC) are required to display certain indications and other information on their labels. These concern aging times (oxidized aging in oak barrels and fermentation in bottles) as well as details of the winegrowing entity producing them.
The PDO Wines of Greece are: PDO Anchialos; PDO Amynteo; PDO Archanes; PDO Goumenissa; PDO Dafnes; PDO Zitsa; PDO Lemnos; PDO Mantinia; PDO Mavrodaphne of Cephalonia; PDO Mavrodaphne of Patras; PDO Messenikola; PDO Monemvassia-Malvasia; PDO Muscat of Cephalonia; PDO Muscat of Lemnos; PDO Muscat of Patras; PDO Muscat of Rio Patras; PDO Muscat of Rhodes; PDO Naoussa; PDO Nemea ; PDO Paros ; PDO Patras; PDO Peza; PDO Slopes of Meliton; PDO Rapsani; PDO Rhodes; PDO Robola of Cephalonia; PDO Samos; PDO Santorini; and PDO Sitia.