Each corner of Earth has something special to offer, a little story to tell – from Canada to Greece and Australia and back. For example, the world offers us special treats for our teapots, a nice experience of the ‘daze’ of the new and unexpected.
Born and raised in Thessaloniki – although my ancestors are all over Greece and beyond – the sweetener for any tea for me was honey. But when I travel, I like to get a taste of the traditional way of life of other places, and their tastes.
I had the good luck in 2014 to study abroad. I take some Greek herbs and other delicacies with me when I have to travel and meet new people. Not for me, but to present ‘a taste of Greece’ to the interesting people I meet. Well, there she was: an authentic Canadian girl, who said to me “your mountain tea is delicious! Why don’t we try it with maple syrup? To tell you the truth, I did not know what maple syrup was. And I was amazed.
I was also thrilled to learn about the nutritional and herbal properties of maple trees. There are many species – the properties can vary a lot – and they are the source of herbs and for producing syrup. Genus Acer has 129 species. Many of them produce herbs that are used for a wide rage of diseases in East Asia and North America.
While the syrup from the plant’s juice is mainly used as sweetener, these plants are also highly effective in treating rheumatism and hepatic disorders, and for detox. They also contain many valuable substances, like flavonoids and tannins, and several other types of compounds, such as phenylethanoid glycosides and alkaloids, which exhibit a broad spectrum of biological activity with antioxidant, anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, hepatoprotective, and anti-obesity power. For example, the bark of the tree, which has healing and astringent properties, is used in bandages for skin wounds.
Sugar maple – it’s leaf is the emblem of Canada – along with some other species, offer maple syrup. It has grades and standards, like honey, and different qualities. Syrup and honey are not just carbohydrates – sugars. Maple syrup has small amounts of vitamins, but it is also high in calcium and potassium and has small amount of magnesium. Compared with honey, there is a good quantity of water too. In syrup, there are also a lot of compounds with healing properties, which is also the case when maple is used as an herb.
The most exciting thing when exploring foods is discovering ‘small flavors’ – the ones that are so unique. I was surprised to learn that there is a ‘flavor wheel’ for Canadian agriculture. It reminds me of some research in Greece with rare batches of honey – like the oregano honey from some islands. The small flavors are so unique that you feel lucky to taste them. It is like wine tasting, but in a dazzling form, consisting of different varieties of foods.
* The above is not medical advice but mere suggestions for improving your diet. Before reach herbal use you should consult your doctor, especially those who have health issues, are pregnant or are under the age of 6.
Evropi-Sofia Dalampira holds a PhD in Agricultural Economics and an MSc in Botany-Biology.