The Greek Nutritional Treasure: Raisins

The National Herald

Sunmaid Raisin Pile. (Photo via Wkimedia Commons)

Odysseas Elytis, the Nobel-awarded Greek poet said, “if you dissolve Greece, you will find an olive tree, a vine, and a boat.” Meaning that with these three, you can reconstitute this special country. That is the level of importance of the vine, dating back in ancient Greek festivals in the name of Dionysus, the god of the grape harvest, wine, fertility, religious ecstasy, and festivity.

June is the time where grapes are starting to develop as the fruit in the ‘complex’ vine cultivations in Greece. Even though vines are easily grown in Greece’s terroir, making quality products from it is so complex that agriculturists must check the fruit more than once a day and a lot of expertise is required in order to have a good result. Wine and edible grapes are the most common products from vines worldwide. But one of the most historic products of Greece since ancient times are dried resins, mainly in Korinthos, an area in the Peloponnese, where the production of black raisins dates back to the Copper Age. Black raisins are actually grapes, traditionally dried on the vine.

The economic importance of the product started with exchanging them for slaves in ancient times, followed by huge exports to European countries from 15th century.

The nutritional power of raisins was known from ancient Greece. Even though ancient Greeks consumed raisins on a daily basis, the healing effects were also described by ancient writers. At the core of the nutritional value of resins are antioxidants, iron, and selenium. Antioxidants and selenium enhances the immune system. Iron is found in raisins in large amounts, and raisins are one of the must-have foods for pregnant women who have greater needs for iron.

A great snack from ancient Greece is still used nowadays: goat Greek yogurt, honey, raisins, and dried Cretan bread – ‘ntakos’. Another offering straight from ancient Greece is greens salad with raisins, ntakos, olive oil, and vine vinegar. You can add some sour hard cheese like kefalotyri or parmesan and you will have a full meal with protein, healthy carbs, and fiber. Simple, cool, and healthy for a hot summer day in Greece!

* 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 is an Agriculturist-MSc Botany-Biology and PhD Candidate in Agricultural-Environmental Education and Science Communication