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Health

Happy Easter holidays!

The Easter holidays are incomparable. The customs and traditions have such deep meanings and ties to religion, some of them still unknown to me, living in Greece for 37 years. But in simple terms, in my mind, while Christmas brings to my mind ‘family time’ and ‘coziness’, Easter reminds me “an escalating celebration of resurrection of All.”

Everywhere we see the world green, new, and revitalized.

Usually, Easter in Greece is celebrated in hometowns or villages with ‘Papou’ and ‘Yiayia’. The rural landscape of various kinds in Greece has one common denominator: greens, flowers, and other edible things. Luckily, traditional knowledge of this edible ‘wild stuff’ in Greece was been supported and recorded over the last decade, with many research projects targeting the ‘rescue’ of this unique oral heritage. From mouth to mouth, interviews with old people in villages by researchers document the wonderful uses of plants as food. It may sound macabre, but is important to collect all this information before the old people come to the end of their lives.

Over the past few years, I remember this time of year going to some remote village with my friends to collect wild herbs for cooking but also different kinds of plants for the festive Sunday dinner. If I was lucky, I would find some flowers also – or I would ask the elders, “what is special around here?”

This season is transitional for salads in Greece. First, summer salads like those with tomatoes and cucumbers make their appearance, but also lettuce and other winter salads still exist. As an agriculturist, I prefer – not so beautiful – lettuce to ‘too early to be true’ tomatoes. Also, lettuce is a better combination with fatty red meat like lamb, sheep, or goat, traditionally made for the Sunday family fiesta.

Lettuce it is! Full of water (96.4%) and low in calories. Rich in phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, calcium. This watery and refreshing plant has a good amount of vitamin C and huge amount of vitamin A, K, Lutein, Zeaxanthin, and carotene! That means that lettuce is antioxidant enough to support a meal with toxins! A good combination of foods supports good health! Traditionally, people add some fresh onions and dill and make a dressing with olive oil and fresh lemon juice. I usually use the ‘what we have here’ technique, so if I find something interesting in the wild, or if the village has a traditional delicacy, I will twist the tradition a bit. Taraxacum, poppy, mustard, and other flowers will give color and extra antioxidants. One way or another, the greens and red meat combination will help you digest, especially if you have been fasting for Easter.

Wherever you are living, traditions come alive if you celebrate with your mind and heart what is true of the great circle life: death will bring life, and vice versa.

* 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.

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