Graced with a temperate climate and an abundance of water, Messinia is a paradise for plant life. A simple stroll in the great outdoors here provides proof of the abundance of flora that thrives in this fertile soil. Juniper bushes appear in profusion along the region’s beaches while cyclamens coyly poke their heads out among the trunks of sturdy pines; observant nature lovers may even spot one of the area’s rare orchids.
There are also plenty of plants that don’t need to be seen to be noticed; anyone with a nose will quickly discover what a plethora of fragrant herbs spring from the ground, ready to be picked by locals who know how to use them, either to treat a variety of ailments or simply to sharpen the flavors of their food. Here, we present some of these botanical wonders and explain their beneficial qualities. If you enjoy nature walks, they shouldn’t be hard to spot. You’ll also find them in stores, available for purchase in dried form so you can take something home to remind you of the treasures and joys hidden away in the region’s mountains and brushlands.
(Coridothymus capitatus) Elderly denizens of ancient Greece drank thyme tea to keep their minds sharp. Simmered together with figs
in wine, thyme was also known to make an excellent strength-boosting beverage, though it was most popular as a powerful stimulant for the libido – being dedicated, in fact, to the goddess Aphrodite. Today, we use thyme medicinally for its antiseptic and healing properties, as a decongestant, or in a liquid form as a gargling solu-tion to treat a sore throat or a cough. When it comes to cooking, remember that thyme is quite intense and must therefore be applied sparingly when used in salads, cheese dishes, vegeta-ble pies and sauces.
Article by Orestes Davias
Illustration by George Sfikas