Summer Xortopites with the ‘Kafkalithra’ Plant

Hot summer nights with cool breezes transport us to ‘small villages’ full of people with ‘big hearts’. There you can find a good ‘panigiri’, a local festival with food, wine, local music and dancing all night long. At these traditional fiestas you will find the local recipes in their best versions. Usually, ladies of the village offer their best, cooking real gourmet food for a large number of people. You will encounter tastes that you will not find even in an expensive restaurant, because they pour their heart and love into each dish.

One of the most diverse dishes, with versions in each corner (or each village?) in Greece is ‘xortopita’ a pie with local greens. Many of the areas in Greece and other regions is Europe, have a unique local green used in xortopites. Tordylium apulum, ‘kafkalithra’ in Greek. This little herb is collected from the wild and is widely used traditionally from ancient Greek times. Nowadays, it is cultivated and used in top gourmet restaurants because of its taste.

In English vocabulary is named Hartwort, meaning ‘Deer plant’, because female deer eat it after giving birth, according to Aristotle. It looks like parsley or coriander but has a unique nutritional value and taste. From Hippocrates to modern science, kafkalithra is used to help the nervous system and to treat melancholy. It enhances the respiratory and urine system and relieves rheumatic pain. Coumarin’s ingredients have antioxidant power that help fight cancer. Large amounts of calcium help keep your bones healthy.

You can use kafkalithra raw in salads or bean soup ‘fasolada’ and it can be cooked, especially in xortopites but also in meatballs – ‘keftedakia’. If you haven’t tasted it before, use a small amount the first time, because the aroma and taste may be too strong for your palate.

* 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.


LESVOS – The 2nd International ELIA Lesvos Confest (an olive conference and festival) took place at the Vrana Olive Press Museum on the island of Lesvos in Greece May 23-26.

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