Local Products & Gastronomy

In Naxos mountainous villages the lunch usually start with Raki (a Greek alcoholic beverage), tsimpita (Local spring green with look like thin asparagus) spread with lemon and oil and cheese varieties, all prepared the same day by the cook: sour Mizithra which is soft like velvet, suite mizithra ( like ricotta and cottage cheese) , Kefalotiri ( a salty and sharp tasting traditional Greek cheese which is very hard and is made with a combination of sheep and goat's milk- it is similar to Regato and Parmezan), Arsenikotiti (hard in texture and sharp in taste). A fresh baked country-style pie is following along with seasonal wild greens. Then, local tender veal dressed with red tomato sause along with fresh fries - the most delicious fresh fries you have ever taste- and local red wine. Also local roast lap accompanied by delicious Naxian roast potatoes with lemon, thyme and origan. A superb omelette along with ‘'Karfia'' (wild asparagus with a fine flaivour) and pickled acorn is something that can really surprise you. Finally Greek coffee in cinder, spoon sweet, and some of the exquisite "Citron of Naxos'' liqueur.  

In another visit , the hostess probably can treat you 'Raki and Zamboni'' (a kind of local pork delicatessen) and sausages, ‘' Thilikotiri'' )female cheese, that is a local type of MIzithra made of goat milk), Naxian gruyere. Oil cheese, olives with screw nut, all dishes are home-made and only local ingredients are used. The main dish include Naxian ‘' Patounto'' (a local recipe of lamb stuffed with white beech, fennel, local aromatic herbs, Cycladic garlic and local olive oil) along with Naxian Potatoes. The lunch is completing by pancakes with molasses, Naxian ‘'afromizithra'' (soft, unsalted ‘'Mizithra'') with thyme honey and ‘'sefoukloti'' (a local, sweet pie which does not contain milk and eggs).

You should definitely taste all product which are considered to be trademark products of the island, that means the once that are not found anywhere else (Citron fruit of Naxos, Naxian potatoes, Naxian cheese e.t.c.), others which constitute a local tradition ( Sefoukloti, Zamboni, Patoudo e.t.c.), and finally those products which characterize the local production- like an any other region of Greece, or the Cyclades- ( Thyme, origan, olives, olive oil, goats, veal, pies e.t.c.)
Naxos contributes to the completion of the ‘'Cycladic cheese pallet'' with 12 unique cheese varieties: arsenikotiri, Naxian gruyere, mizithra, ksinomizithra (sour mizithra), touloumotiri (a moist, snow- white cheese), anthotiro (a variation of mizithra, butterly in texture), Naxian afromizithra, thilikotiri, kefalotiri, kopanisti (red pepper and Greek feta spread), oil cheese, manouri (soft cheese with unique taste and flavour).

The vegeration of the island which is ‘'watered'' by the saltiness of the sea, gives to the goat's milk and consequently to the Naxian cheese a special flavour. The hot sun which is unique all over the Mediterranean helps the development of the fermentation fungus, so Naxos produces indeed very special cheeses.
In Naxos, as in other Cycladic islands , there is also a long tradition od cow's milk cheeses, which dates back to the years of the Venetian rule, when the catholic governors were importing the food preparation methods as well as the food itself. Cyclades is the only region in Greece which has milking cows, so this region started to produce cheese many years ago. Each cheese variety has its own history. Mention is made to many cheeses already since the 19th century or even since ancient times, while for many other cheeses there is only an oral tradition.

According to the local tradition, the arsenikotiri (meaning meal cheese), which is known at least since the 19th century owes its name to its properties (hard in texture and sharp in taste), while the thilikotiri (meaning female cheese) is made of cow's milk.
According to the oral tradition, the Naxian afromizithra was a chese variety used for the preparation of the cheese pie on Easter and it was generally essential for the house economy.

The Naxian gruyere was once made of non pasteurized milk, while nowadays, it is made of pasteurized milk. This cheese variety was produced for the first time in Greece by Nikos Zygouris (1914). It is to a large extent like the Swiss Gruyere and it is considered as one of the finest Greek hard cheeses. Ii is a P.D.O product (Protected Designation of Origin) since 1996 and its preparation is consolidated since 1998.

We often see the intelligence of the unknown islander cheese producer in the way he finds conservation methods for his products. A characteristic example is the ‘'kopanisti'' ( a P.D.O product which is met in Naxos and other Cycladic islands), which is put in earthenware pots and then buried in the earth for conservation.
Self- sown greens, like wild asparagus, ‘'tsimpita'' a.o. constitute the main ingredient for the preparation of various dishes like omelette, a la polita recipies, simple salads with oil and lemon or herb pies.

The pies convey the Greek gastronomic spirit, which is created by simple and frugal recipies. Especially the green pies are simple, the preparation procedure is practical and quick and they are made of different flavours. The pie is either the main dish, or an appetizer. The pies contain the ‘'savoury merits'' of bread as well as the ones of a main dish. While there is no clear reference to greens pies, there is no dispute that the ancient Greeks knew more than 100 wild edible greens, which they used in their every day meals, and that the ancient Greeks prepared bread which was overstuffed with aromatic herbs, all these strengthen the assumption that there should be greens pies at that time as well.

The greens constitute a basic element of the Mediterranean diet and they are rich in nutrients. The asparagus for example contain magnesium, phosphorous, calcium, potassium, manganese, plenty of vitamins and asparaginum.

The origan contains plenty of essential oils- thymol and carvacol are the most important ones- that are preventing the action of microorganisms and protect thus the organism from various diseases. In addition, the origan has a considerable ant oxidising effect. Namely, both above mentioned substance prevent the action of the free radicals. Furthermore, experimental data show that the ant oxidising effect of the thymol and carvacol is stronger even from the one exerted by the synthetic antioxidants (BHT and BHA) which are widely used in the packaged meat.

According to ancient greek reports , the origan was established as a symbol of joy and happiness, while it was also used in the creation of the wedding wreath.
Thyme is a multiannual herb with little rose- colour flowers and constitutes the source of the island's exquisite thyme honey.
The considerable production of a mountainous honey in Naxos (average production of honey per year: 15000- 18000 kilos) is at a present packaged by the beekeepers themselves and sold to the Naxians and other visitors of the island. Actually the production is much less than the increasingly demand. The authenticity of the product is certified by a label, which mentions the names of the producers of the Co- operative.

Naxos was famous for its good wine already since ancient times and according to the Greek mythology, the ancient god of wine and entertainment, Dionysos, was born in Naxos and as the patron of the island, it was him that planted the first grapevine in Naxos.

The cultivation of the potato in Naxos begun around 1700 AC. From 1830 onwards, the cultivation of the potato in the Naxian lowland was significantly spread. The potato constitute at that time one of the island's basic products and contributed to the farmers' economic development and prosperity. The Naxian potato was famous throughout Greece for its quality and its taste which was attributed to the fine climate conditions and the composition of the island's soil.

The citron tree was the first among the citrus fruit that was cultivated in Europe and in particular in the Mediterranean. In Naxos, one can see citron trees in the Eggares plain and in the Sangrios plain, but also in the island's valleys where the winter periods are usually mild and the summer periods cool. The citron leaves are used in the production of the ‘'Citron of Naxos'' liquer, while a variety of spoon sweets is made of citron bean. The citron peel is used in the pharmaceutic industry, in the confectionery and in soap works. The citron fruit of Naxos has been given the Protected Designation of Origin (P.D.O.) award.

The oil is one of Naxos' main farming products. More than 400.000 olive trees are cultivated on the island (covering more than 30.000 hectares). The Tragea basin, centrally located on the island of Naxos, is a verdant with olive trees area, there are more than 200.000 olive trees, which represent almost half of the island's total olive trees. Almost all Naxians own olive grooves, so it is not surprising that the oil plays an important role in the economic life of the residents.

The production of meat is also very important in Naxos. In the island's highland, are breeded mainly sheep and goats, whereas in the lowland cattle. Pigs are breeded to a low extent. However, the pig husbandry contributes to the production of delicatessen, especially to the production of the exquisite zamboni and the local country- style sausages. Meat is consequently extensively used in the Naxian cuisine. It is served along with vegetables or greens and it is a basic element in various special recipies, like the patoudo, which is already mentioned above.