Figs are believed to have originated in western Asia before being cultivated across the Mediterranean and making their way into the Cycladic kitchen. Technically speaking, the fig is not a fruit but an inverted flower that is pollinated by fig wasps. August is sometimes called “fig month” in Greece, as that’s when they are ripe for picking.
Up until the Middle Ages, wild fennel was considered a deterrent of evil spirits, and people would stuff sprigs into their keyholes to keep away malevolent energy. Nowadays, its distinct liquorice-like flavour enhances a number of meat, vegetable, and fish dishes while also acting as a center-stage ingredient in dishes such as marathopites, the wild fennel pies loved by Cretans in particular. Wild fennel is known as maratho in Greek after the famous Marathon area south of Athens.
A wild seaside herb found throughout Greece, kritamo is also known as sea fennel, sea asparagus, sea pickle, and rock samphire. Thriving among rocky seaside cliffs and beaches, kritamo reflects the sea well through its unique aroma and salty flavour. As well as featuring in a number of staple Cycladic dishes, kritamo proves its versatility in medicine and the cosmetics industry today due to its high-quality antioxidants and omega-3 fats.
Found where seawater meets a coastline and evaporates on the rock leaving behind a crystalline residue, rock salt contributes to the mineral richness of a dish and is instrumental in bringing out the flavours of other ingredients. Rock salt is also used to preserve and cure, which are vital methods in Cycladic cuisine. Athinagoras Kostakos, culinary director at Nōema, insists that rock salt is not just a facilitator of flavour but an ingredient in its own right.