The Taste of Messinia
Alive with scents and breezes and nurtured in the warmth of the sun, the land of Messinia produces tastes and flavors that linger in the memory. Age-old traditional recipes, such as diples, lallagia and kagiana, or rooster with noodles (hylopites), prepared with fresh ingredients, are enjoyed in a spirit of harmony and true friendship.
The olive- oil of Messinia - dubbed "liquid gold" by Homer - is considered by lovers of good food to be among the finest in the world. The best- known olive varieties are Koroneiki and Kalamata, the famous table olive. Around 250 olive-oil presses operate in Messinia, producing an average of 50,000-55,000 tons annually, 95% of which is cold-pressed, extra virgin olive- oil.
Wine has always been a staple of the Messinian diet, bringing man and nature into close union. The countryside is dotted with large and small vineyards owned by local families that make their own wine. Some even preserve age-old methods of grape crushing, the first step in the art of traditional vinification. These vineyards also produce the highly regarded balsamic vinegar of Messinia.
The confectionary stars at any wedding in Messinia are honey curls called diples, folded, deep fried, drizzled with honey and sprinkled with cinnamon and crushed walnuts. Diples are served at wedding celebrations as a symbol of the couple's sweet life together.
Lallagia (pancakes), a revered local tradition in the region of Mani, are still part of family dinners, especially on religious feast days.
A high-quality product of Messinia, locally grown since ancient times, the region's delicious figs (fresh or dried) have become an international delicacy. Figs are cultivated mainly in the municipality of Messini and in areas around the city of Kalamata.
A traditional southern Greek recipe made with ripe tomatoes, eggs and extra virgin olive oil.
A local delicacy, talagani is a white cheese produced chiefly in the region of Gargaliani. It is akin to Cypriot halloumi but is made using only sheep's milk instead of a mixture of goat's and sheep's milk.
Messinia is a region that produces excellent honey. The best is said to be from Mount Taygetos, where the rich flora enables bees to make an aromatic and highly flavorful honey.
The famous pasteli of Kalamata is made with two ingredients, the superb honey of the region and sesame seeds. There is more calcium in this delicious candy bar than in milk, cheese or nuts.
Made exclusively from the sun-dried grapes of the vineyards of Messinia, aging exclusively in oak barrels and based on the traditional Greek recipe for sweet, dark vinegar, "glykadi", the balsamic vinegar of Messinia, has a unique sweet and sour taste that differentiates it from any other in the world.
Using extra virgin olive oil from Messinia and natural herbs from Mount Taygetos, while replacing regular vinegar with the balsamic variety and sugar with local honey, Messinian mustard is one of the unique organic condiments of the Mediterranean diet.
The history of currants goes back thousands of years and the region of Messinia is one of the largest producers and exporters in the world. Currants start life as small seedless black grapes which grow in certain areas of the Peloponnese. Messinians have long used currants in traditional recipes – perhaps the most celebrated being stuffed tomatoes – as well as in locally made breads and cakes.