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Stamnagathi is a Greek variety of wild chicory that grows on the mountains of the island Crete. It is dark green in color with wild, serrated leaves that grow outward in small spirals, with the leaves being held together by a small root. These clusters of leaves average 8cm in diameter. Stamnagathi is known for it’s bitter taste, although some say there is a subtle sweetness accompanying it.
Stamnagathi is available year round in Greece, but is best in the Spring, when it’s leaves are most tender.
Stamnagathi is botanically classified as Cichorium spinosum. Until recently, Stamnagathi was only available by wild foraging on the island of Crete. In 2013, an article announced that the Greek Inspection and Certification Body, Tuy Hellas, carried out the first world certification of the herb, based on the Global A.P. V4 for a cultivation company. Tuy Hellas received international recognition for supporting Greek farmers efforts to produce quality products like Stamnagathi, and be able to export them to international markets. A company called Cretan Gaia is one of the largest producers of Stamnagathi in Greece, with over two tons of daily production. They respect the naturally occurring “volunteer plant”, while collecting genuine wild seed from the mountains, and then replanting in their own fields.
Stamnagathi contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E and C, and linoleic acid, which is known to get rid of accumulated fat in arteries. It also has significant amounts of calcium and iron. It is also rumored to have anti-septic and anti-rheumetic properties, even being used medicinally in ancient times.
Stamnagathi can be eaten raw, such as in salads, but is more commonly consumed cooked. Steamed, boiled, and sautéed are the most common ways to cook Stamnagathi. It’s dark green leaves can be bitter, so it is best to pair these greens with a squeeze of lemon juice or vinegar to combat the bitterness. Stamnagathi pairs well with extra virgin olive oil, garlic, onions, feta cheese, olives, lamb, and fish. Stamnagathi is one of the most popular side dishes on a traditional Greek dinner table. Store in the refrigerator in a loose fitting bag for up to a week.
It is said that the Cretan people have been eating Stamnagathi for hundreds of years. It has been recognized for many medicinal benefits, including detoxification of the liver, reducing blood glucose, as well as being a strong natural diuretic. Drinking the water from boiled Stamnagathi leaves is also said to be a remedy for a stomach ache, and increasing the defense of the peptic system from diseases such as liver, gallbladder, and kidney deficiencies. Cretans credit their longevity to eating wild foraged Stamnagathi at every meal.
Stamnagathi has been growing on the wild mountains of Crete as far back as history goes. The name Stamnagathi is believed to come from the combination of two Greek words. Agathi, meaning thorn, and stamna, which is a clay vessel used to carry well water. The Stamnagathi was placed over the mouth of the vessel to stop insects from entering. When the Germans had invaded and occupied Crete in World War II, Cretans were found to maintain their vigor and health, whereas in other parts of Greece, villagers suffered from malnutrition. Scientific research found that the Cretans diet at that time was composed mainly of wild greens (stamnagathi), snails, and what little game or fish they could keep for themselves. Stamnagathi has been known as a Greek Superfood.
Recipes that include Stamnagathi. One is easiest, three is harder.
|Vegan in Athens||Stamnagathi ,Cherry Tomatoes, Traditional Cretan Barley Rusk and Vinegret Salad|
|Greek Recipe||Stamnagathi Salad|