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Like a Phoenix from the Ashes: Greek organic produce and the Mediterranean Diet

It is comforting to think that despite the financial setbacks that the Greek economy has experienced recently, it is now rising from the ashes with its latest culinary exports. The Mediterranean Diet has long been shown to be good for all of us, wherever we live. Moreover it is delicious. No wonder that the EU and Greece is pronoting its producers.

We gathered at Andaz Hotel to hear from organic producers and nutritional experts. Representatives from Kourellas (dairy), Pesunion (currants), Krokos Kozanis (organic tea and drinks, organic red saffron), Mediterra SA (mastiha) and Blauel Greek Organic Produce (dried tomatoes, olive paste, oil, lemon, capers, olives, and vegetables in oil) told us about their products, PDO and certified organic. Katherine Kimber from Nude Nutrition told us of the health benefits of currants. These were a revelation! Traditionally in Britain, the currant is a Christmas item to be mixed in with puddings and so forth but here, in a small study, the black Corinthian currants from Vostizza, Zante, Gulf and Provincial were shown to be beneficial to those with high cholesterol and other health conditions. SEEN will watch out for further studies on this miraculous fruit. Katherine herself was the glowing picture of health and perhaps the best advertisement for the Mediterranean Diet.

Olive oil has, of course, long been known to be healthy and delicious to boot. We sampled ‘Eliki’ and ‘Farmers Union’ cold-pressed oils that were produced to very high standards. We ate a wide variety of fresh salads, and the cheeses were a revelation! Feta, kefalograveria, manouri… Organic dairy products are a large part of the Mediterranean Diet. Most importantly, animal welfare is of the utmost concern, and that’s always good news.

Everyone was keen to try the wondrous Chios Mastiha, currently wowing the Saudi Arabian and Middle-Eastern markets as an ingredient in desserts, a beauty product and a healthful additive. Derived from the resin of a bush, the crop is sustainable and, in the light of the contentious use of animal products in cosmetics, perhaps a welcome alternative. Hitherto, SEEN had heard of mastiha (or mastic) as a gelling ingredient in Turkish Delight, so it was interesting to learn more.

That’s the great thing about living in London, there are loads of Greek delis and Middle-Eastern shops where we can check out these items and incorporate them into our own cooking and lifestyles. The cooked dishes were equally delicious with friendly Executive Chef Apostolos Altanis on hand to talk us through the organic meat and cheese dishes, not to say the delicious desserts. SEEN tried the rice pudding dish and could have safely carried on eating it all evening.

In a post-Brexit world, I think that organic is the only way to go. It’s good for us, the environment, and crucially because it’s a labour-intensive way of farming, it gets people working on the land again and so regenerates rural communities. Long may organic Greek produce come to our shores.