The Ikarian diet is similar to the Mediterranean diet in that it emphasizes plant-based ingredients. The traditional Ikarian diet uses meat sparingly. The cuisine is characterized by its simplicity, variation, and moderation. Using what’s in season helps to create variety in the Ikarian diet. The island itself has been named a “blue” zone because many of the world’s oldest people live there. Here’s what you should know about the cuisine of Ikaria:
What Grows in Ikaria?
Ikarians base much of their diet on what they grow and what grows around the island. Wild greens are especially popular. Leeks, garlic, carrots, and potatoes are easily accessible in Ikaria. Even the leaves of wild carrots are used in the cooking. Vegetables that are in season are often pickled so they can be used at other times of year. Wild lupin beans are also found there and have been used as a source of protein for hundreds of years! Garlic, oregano, chickpeas, rosemary, chamomile, and so much more can be found around Ikaria. Because there is no commercial farming in Ikaria, everything grown is organic.
Traditional Meals of Ikaria
Ikarians typically eat a late breakfast as well as a late lunch. Breakfast may consist of yogurt or cheese, fruits, and herbal tea or coffee. Lunch is often a salad made from the greens found in Ikaria, beans, and other garden vegetables. Dinner may be something like bread, olives, vegetables, and wine. Dinner is usually a light meal.
Typical of dishes made in Ikaria, soufico is full of healthy vegetables. Soufico is a vegetarian stew that can be made in just one pot using olive oil, onions, potatoes, bell peppers, zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, bay leaves, white wine, and petimezi. Petimezi is an organic grape molasses.
Another tasty and healthy dish is called pitarakia. Pitarakia are a variety of greens wrapped filo. Ingredients may include, but aren’t limited to, red onions, leeks, scallions, chopped fennel bulb, chard, spinach, myroni (chervil), wild fennel (maratho), mint, parsley, and dill.
Raw honey is used widely in Ikaria. The nectar used by bees includes that of blossoming sage, pine, lavender, wild oregano, etc. and is thought to create an especially healthy honey that is rich with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. The honey used in Ikaria is pure, unfiltered, and raw. Bits of honeycomb can be filtered from the honey if needed though. Raw honey has been used for generations as a preventive medicine. It can be eaten with bread or added to tea.
Herbs found around Ikaria, such as chamomile and mint, have long been used to make herbal teas. The herbs are dried and then used to make delicious and fragrant tea. Whether you suffer from a stomach-ache, insomnia, cough and cold, or arthritis pain, relief can be found in these teas. Dandelion tea is a diuretic, which helps to reduce blood pressure. Other teas made from the herbs of Ikaria include: rosemary, wild sage, pennyroyal, rock rose, and more.
The healthy Ikarian diet is based on vegetables and other healthy foods found around the island. Although meat is eaten, it is done sparingly and the diet is primarily a vegetarian one. For more information about the diet on this island, please watch this episode from Diane Kochilas’My Greek Table.