Corfu is home to many different and herbs that grow naturally in the Corfu soil. Many of the greens start to grow in the winter and will typically dry out by summertime. However, this isn’t always the case. From searching in the mountains to the valley. Also, you find many different greens and herbs that are edible. Foraging for different types of grass in Corfu is a way to get off the couch for a little bit and do some light exercising. The greens are healthy and taste good. You can eat many of them raw in a salad or boiled with some potatoes. So, here is a list of the Greens and herbs that you will be able to find in Corfu.
If you enjoy being in nature this is for you!
Arugala (Roka in Greek)
Arugala is a popular green with a peppery taste. In Greece, it is mostly eaten in salads and sometimes boiled. You wouldn’t believe all the health benefits that is found in Arugala. There’s Vitamin B, C, and K, potassium, calcium, and many antioxidants. In Corfu, it can be found in many places mostly in livadi ropa (the valley).
Interesting fact: Arugala was considered to be a natural aphrodisiac in Ancient Greece. Also, known to be used in love potions.
Common Sowthistle (Zohos in Greek)
The Sowthistle is one of the most common greens that grow naturally. It is apart of the dandelion family. Mainly, rabbits and pigs will eat them, but they are good for humans also! Moreover, if you eat raw the smaller leaves are less bitter! However, if you boil sowthistle it is considered less bitter.
How to spot:
I know it looks like the common dandelion. The difference between the two is that the common sowthistle will have multiple flowers on one stock.
Interesting fact: Sowthisthle was used for many different medical reasons in Ancient Greece. Including menstrual flow, the fight against cancer, warts, and many more.
Common Dandelion (Pikralida in Greek)
The Common Dandelion is one of the most common weeds in nature. It is widely considered a burden, but when money was tough it was a good way to eat for free. Like many other greens, it is enjoyed more when boiled. The common Dandelion grows all year round here in Corfu but mostly in the winter and spring.
What is it?
Separating the different kinds of Dandelions can be tough. However, to know that it is the common dandelion, just make sure it has one flower per stock and follow the picture!
Good to know: Dandelions grow everywhere! In ancient times they were used for many different reasons, like digestive issues, warts, kidney problems. Many of the same benefits the Sowthistle has.
When the flower dries it becomes really delicate and white. We can all remember picking them and trying to blow them all off as children!
Common Purslane (Glistrida in Greek)
So Common Purslane is actually Antrakla in Greek, but in Corfu, in the villages, we call it Glistrida. Glistrida means slippery. They say that it slides down your throat easily and after eating you talk a lot! Glistrida can be found everywhere in Corfu, in spring and summer.
Many Greeks eat it raw in their salad. However, you might also see it be eaten with yogurt or alone with olive oil and vinegar.
Just like many other greens found in Corfu, they have many health benefits! Similar to the others, Purslane is known to help with inflammation.
Unlike the rest: It was found that Purslane has a kind of Omega 3 fatty acid. This is very rare for greens. Also known to help with ADHD and autism.
Oregano (Rigani in Greek)
Oregano is one of the Greekest things. It originates from Greece and is still used to this day in Greek cuisine more than anything else. We use it on a variety of things, pizza, meat, salads, potatoes, and so much more! Many other cultures also use it having seen the multiple health benefits and the unique taste. Here in Corfu, you can find it in the mountains where it can grow naturally. Almost everyone has it at their house because it is very useful to have and grows very easily.
Here’s an idea
If you are staying at an Airbnb in a village outside of the city, chances are they have an oregano plant. Don’t be afraid to ask or look around outside. Maybe take some to cook or even better yet take some back to your country with you!
In ancient Greece, Oregano was used to treat many different health problems, such as diarrhea, skin irritations, nausea, arthritis, joint pain, and more. It was also used as an antidote for poison.
There are many superstitions revolving around oregano. The ancient Greeks would plant Oregano to ward off evil spirits. Some would have it close to them while they sleep to encourage good dreams!
For more information visit this website.
Thyme (Thimari in Greek)
Thyme is very similar to Oregano. It can be found in so many places in the mountains here in Corfu. Once, you grow it in your garden it will be there forever! Not much is needed but a little bit of watering in the summer. Thyme goes good with sage and rosemary, having all very different tastes and benefits.
Just like Oregano, Thyme is no different! Greeks like to talk and most know at least basic English, so if you like Thyme ask. If they don’t have Thyme I’m sure they will have other herbs.
For more information, I found this website useful! https://www.myspicer.com/the-history-of-thyme/#:~:text=Thyme%20has%20been%20widely%20acknowledged,and%20a%20home%20for%20fairies.
Fennel (Marathos in Greek)
Fennel is found all over the place in Corfu. It is in our front yards, the sides of roads, and mostly in the mountains. In Greek Cuisine, like in most parts of the world, fennel is used a lot. The leaves are good to add flavor to salads, sauces, or soups. It can also be used as a garnish for more meat or fish. The bulb of the fennel is usually boiled but you can sauté, stew, grill, or even eat raw.
Like all the other herbs and greens, fennel is very old and is known for some superstitions. It is said that fennel wards off evil spirits. It is also good for your immune system so they may have looked at it like that.
Trivia: The Greek word Marathon comes from the word fennel “Marathos” meaning grow thin. The area called Marathon in Greece is known to have a lot of fennel! This is also why when they won the battle at marathon against the Persians fennel stocks were a part of their victory celebration.
The story has it in Greek mythology Promotheus used a fennel stock to steal the fire for the people.
Bay Laurel (Daphne in Greek)
Bay Laurel is a small tree with medium-sized leaves. The leaves have a nice smell that is used to give different soups or sauces a little more taste.
The Greek god, Apollo fell in love with the Nymph Daphne. Daphne was not interested! However, Apollo kept on trying, so much that Daphne went to the Goddess Gaia for help. The Goddess Gaia is the Goddess of the earth. She answered Daphne’s prayers by turning her into a tree. Instead, Apollo would now wear the branches of Daphne as a wreath on his head. Other Gods would also wear Daphne branches as a wreath on their heads because it is a symbol of victory. For more history on Bay laurel https://www.hellenicgods.org/bay-laurel—daphne—daphne
The oil from bay laurel is used for many things, such as, rashes, headaches, ear infections, and many others. The trees are mostly in the mountains and there are plenty so feel free to going foraging for Daphne! Many people also have it in their yards so if you pass by a bay leaf tree, I’m sure they would be glad to give you some.
I also have one in my yard and give plenty to tourists to take home with them.
Good to know: Greeks are very generous people, especially the older generation. We have many different fruit trees and plants in our gardens. There are many different things ripening all year round. So it isn’t uncommon for villagers to exchange fruits with each other as a good gesture.
I remember my Yiayia (grandmother) would tell me to go pick a bunch of lemons from our tree and go to her friend’s house, Sofia, down the road to give them to her. In return, Sofia would give me a bag of Oranges. We also have oranges in our yard but Sofia’s oranges had a better taste, so i accepted politely! SO don’t be shy, and ASK!
Fun fact: My Yiayia (grandmother), like many of the older generation, would put branches of bay laurel in clothing cabinets to keep it smelling nice!
Wild Asparagus (Sparaggi in Greek)
April in Corfu is a big time of the year for many reasons. Easter usually takes place this month. Everyone is getting ready for the upcoming tourism that usually starts in May. Also, wild asparagus picking! In the mountains of Corfu, you can find many different plants and trees, but one of the best is definitely Asparagus. The locals look at it as a little competition. You will have to go up to the mountain at the perfect time to go hunting for the Wild Asparagus but if you are too early then the Asparagus isn’t ripe enough to be picked. If you are too late then someone else will have already picked it! It is a free-for-all. We will go onto other people’s land, whatever we can do to fill up a bag.
I remember one year my friend Vasilis and I went, spending 7 hours foraging for Wild Asparagus in the mountain forest we went home with each one full plastic grocery-sized bag. We were a little late so even that much we were lucky to find!
We decide to fry both of the bags in the pan to eat it for lunch and since Wild Asparagus is around 90 % water, it came out to exactly two plates! So if you were wondering why Asparagus is so expensive, now you know.
As you probably know Wild Asparagus is very good for your health is rich in calcium, zinc, vitamin b6, iron, potassium, too many to name! I’m sure you also know that Asparagus will make your urine not smell the nicest for a day or two!
Rosemary (Dendrolivano in Greek)
In Corfu, Rosemary is everywhere! You will see it in people’s yards, in the mountains, even on the sides of some roads. Like many other herbs, Rosemary back in ancient Greece was considered a herb to ward off evil spirits. Scientists know that Rosemary helps protect you from cancer and would also heal you from many diseases.
Rosemary can be used in many different dishes including but not limited to pork, lamb, chicken, zucchini soup, fish, and barbecued foods. Where rosemary grows it really grows! I have seen many meters of rosemary bushes in the mountain!
Sage (Faskomilo in Greek)
Sage is one of my favorites! You can find it easily in the mountains of Corfu. However, make sure you smell it and identify it well before you are sure it is sage because there is a plant that looks like it! It doesn’t spell like it though, so you can easily tell this way while you are foraging through the Corfu mountains for herbs!
Many of the sage on the market is from Greece. Sage like dry rocky places so Greece is sage’s perfect home!
Sage has a tremendous amount of health benefits and it has a very strong flavor! It has tons of antioxidants. There are a number of vitamins and minerals in sage-like Vitamin B6, Vitamin K, calcium, and iron. Sage also helps with blood sugar levels, therefore a great natural way to reduce it! Some studies support that helps memory and brain health! These are just a few of the health benefits.