Greek Recipes

Greek and Cypriot recipes

Byzantine cuisine – Wild greens and vegetables

Due to fasting, the Byzantines incorporated fresh vegetables and wild greens in their meals much more often than the ancient Greeks, although the varieties consumed in both historic periods did not vary considerably. Compared with the modern age, fresh vegetables and wild greens were given different names and varied in their cooking method; for these reasons, it is worth mentioning a number of them. The Byzantines ate mallows (mallahi) and nettles (knide), the foods of the poor. Theodore Balsamon, expressing his dislike for eunuchs, referred to their nature as being rich with nettles (κνιδοχορτοπλοθτον ευωοθχων φυσιν). According to a later proverb “The nettles that grow in villages are tender like lettuce”, equivalent to our “Half a loaf is better than no bread at all”. The discontent conveyed in the above expression should not overshadow the truth about this type of food. In terms of nutritional content, both mallow and nettles rank among the most important food plants man has at his disposal. It is easy, therefore, to understand that regardless of the availablity of food, the poor enjoyed the benefits of a healthy diet, something reflected in the robustness of their children.

Moreover, the Byzantines used to eat poppies prior to their blossoming time. Vegetables popular in those times included the leboutia (i.e. orache, a salad dish eaten raw or boiled), spanaki (spinach), blita (amaranth), lapatho (sorrel), sinapia (mustards), vrakalidessparangia (asparagus), galatsida (sow-thistle) ,frigion (cabbage), anthokramvi (cauliflower), gonghilia (turnips), kinara (artichokes), indiva (endives), angouri (cucumber), tetrangouron (green melon),rafanides (radishes), karota or dafkoi (carrots), gourds, mazizanion (eggplant), onions, garlic, ect.

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