Wild Herbs and Greens of Crete
Herbs are native plants that grow in barren or cultivated areas, and have been used since the time of Hippocrates, while in China and the Arabs, herbs had a prominent place in both medicine and cuisine.
Crete is an island with a special diversity not only in its soil but also in its flora. Some herbs exist only in Crete, that is, they are unique, while some others are in the same family but have a different category from those found in the fauna of Greece, Europe and the world.
Our herbs are unique, their properties are many and their uses even more.
When we say herbs we use the root, the flower, the stem, the leaves, the seed, the fruit. Some herbs help the same if we use the root or the leaves or the flower, while in other herbs we have other properties or similar properties in each part of the plant.
To collect them we leave part of the plant in nature to reproduce, and we try to find them in places that are not frequented by people, that is why sometimes it is difficult to collect while other times the bad weather conditions do not allow them to grow and there is a shortage .
One of the reasons that the cultivation of wild herbs began in Crete, is that there was a large collection of plants, with the risk of being eliminated by the fauna of the mountains of Crete. Governments have set limits on the amount of herbs one can collect and hope that the herbs will remain in the mountains for generations to come.
When do we collect the herbs:
In general, when we collect herbs for therapeutic purposes, we collect them in the Spring when the plant is still growing and has its maximum therapeutic energy.
Some herbs, however, are collected in different seasons, such as e.g. the root of the wild radish (Taraxako) which is gathered in September.
The best times to collect herbs for therapeutic purposes are for the roots in the morning and evening, for the leaves before noon, ideally after 9-10 in the morning, when the dew (moisture) of nature has gone, for the flowers with sunshine so that they have fully opened and are not about to wither, the seeds and fruits all day except the intense midday heat. We avoid picking herbs when the sun is too strong at midday.
In relation to the phases of the Moon, we collect the roots at the beginning of spring or in the fall at Full Moon or when it is lost. The leaves are collected almost all year long as long as they are sprouts and full Moon. The flowers are collected in spring or early summer on a full moon or full moon if it is for a therapeutic purpose. Fruits and seeds must be ripe at the time of collection, usually summer or autumn, with dry weather always. If it is a matter of storage, we collect them during the period when the Moon is waning or waning.
Generally when the Moon is in limbo, the juices go towards the earth so we don’t collect flowers, leaves, branches, shoots. When the Moon is full, the juices go upwards, so we do not collect roots and underground parts of the herb.
The Full Moon is an excellent day for herb gathering, and especially the roots gathered on a Full Moon have stronger healing power than all other gathering times.
Depending on the season, we can organize herb collecting excursions combining the excursion, contact with nature and the wild mountains in the White Mountains (usually), for reservations click here.
Preservation of herbs
Drying, maintenance and storage
We place them in the shade spread out on air-permeable natural material and turn them several times. We keep the herbs for about a year, the next year they collect new herbs to have all their ingredients.
We store them when the Moon is on the wane, because if we fill our jars with full Moon, there is a risk of them getting moldy.
We store them in dark glass containers and paper bags, in a shady place. This way they stay dry, their aroma lasts for a long time and all their ingredients are preserved.
Preparation and use
We can eat them either raw or cooked as vegetables such as sage, elderflowers, or as a salad such as cardamom, taraxacus sprouts, or as spinach such as nettle. This way we get the best results.
We can also take them in pill, powder or soup form. In modern medicine, herbs, their essential oils, their powder, their flowers, are largely used for the creation of medicines and therapeutic ingredients to treat diseases or for recovery. Especially Cretan herbs such as Thyme Sage Diktamo are the main ingredients of a cold, flu and upper respiratory medicine formula under the brand name “IAMA”, it shows us how powerful and effective Cretan herbs are.
The use of herbs must in every way be done with balance and moderation, just like everything in our life. Excessive use of an herb can instead of helping us, harm us or create disharmony in our body and organs.
Other ways we use the herbs are:
Tea or infusion:
Ideal for young herbs containing essential oils. Pour a spoonful of the herb into 1 cup of boiling water and leave it for up to ten minutes to release the essential oils and healing components of the herb. We drink it immediately.
A general guideline is to let the herbs settle to the bottom of the cup, at which point the tea is ready, but this is not the case with all herbs. We can use two to three herbs together when making a tea or infusion to get the optimal benefit.
It is ideal for herbs and plants that have insoluble therapeutic substances such as woody plants, roots or even dry shoots. The boiling time is a quarter, although there are also herbs that need half an hour of boiling (especially Chinese medicinal herbs that are made up of very woody materials).
Leave the herb overnight in cold water to infuse and drink it. If we want the next day, boil the used herb a little and drink the tea as well.
They are thick infusions of herbs. We can have an extract by adding it to the healing herb, e.g. olive oil to create a very good quality rubbing oil.
Some herbs can be made into juice, which we use immediately, e.g. nettle, celery, parsley, dill, fennel, etc.
They are very thin infusions, unlike extracts, they are made with diluted alcohol in which we place the herb, leave it for about 2 weeks, strain it and it is ready for use.
Ointments and patch mixtures:
To make an herbal salve, we mash the herbs or their extracts with soft fats or boil them together. It takes a lot of patience while our utensils are enamel pots and wooden spoons. An ideal day is the Full Moon.
It is a wonderful idea to musk our bed and breathe in the wonderful scents of nature during our sleep time.
The fabric should be thick – woven cloth made of natural material such as linen or cotton and after stuffing it we sew it very well.
The herbs are collected with a full Moon, while the pad is made with a waning Moon to prevent the herbs from spoiling. These pads can also be used for rheumatism and allergies, relieving the problem.
Disease categories that herbs help:
Ears, eyes, mouth, throat
Skin and hair
Heart, blood and circulatory system of the body
Urinary tract disorders
Pregnancy and childbirth
Problems of the elderly
Herbs that we find or grow in Crete are mainly the following:
Avronia, Honeysuckle, Wild artichoke, Wild lettuce, Aloe, Antrakla, Dill, Ascolymbros, Basil, Bulbs or Bulbs, or Ascordulakas or bulbs, Oats, Milk thistle, Thistle, Laurel, Dictamo or Erontas, Rosemary, Diosmos, Zochos or felt, Thrombi, Thyme , Calendula, Caper, Eucalyptus, Hawthorn, Onion, Hawthorn, Frankincense, Lemon thyme, Louisa, Lygaria, Parsley, Marjoram, Fennel, Lettuce, Marjoram, Honeysuckle, Mint, Mallow, Myrtle, Pentaneuro, Polycombo, Polytrichy, Oregano, Elderberry, Celery .
In my opinion, herbs that we use for cooking are in the category of herbs, which is why I have included them in this list.