Almost a week on this island and I don’t know how I could be more in love with it. Naxos has beautiful beaches and great weather. Interesting stories and ruins which bring to life some of the Greek mythology we’ve grown up with. Great food and architectural aesthetic-the list goes on and on.
It’s hard to pick just one thing, but I think if I had to, the thing I love most about Naxos is that it is largely self sufficient, producing most of the food it consumes and then some. The largest of the Cycladic Islands, Naxos has large valleys and plains with fertile soil for many things.
Potatoes and Other Agricultural Products
The Naxos potato is celebrated throughout Greece. They produce so much here that they export them. I can attest to how delicious they are. Golden colored with a mild, almost sweet flavor, we’ve been eating plenty of them in the form of french fries and have even been cooking them ourselves. On our first trip to the market we bought a big bag of them.
Why are they so delicious? Well, the soil composition and semi-arid conditions are normally attributed to the good flavor. I would add that the celebration of them as something special and desirable contributes to that sweet taste.
Pulses (beans and lentils), olives, figs, grapes and herbs are a few of the other major crops grown on the island. Olive oil, wines and other products are made from these.
Cows, sheep, pigs and goats are all kept on Naxos. Fresh cows milk, yogurt, and cheeses are all produced on island.
The cheeses. Oh my goodness the cheeses are so good. There are about 4-5 varieties which are traditionally attributed to Naxos and are produced and celebrated here. Although if you ask any Naxian cheese maker how many varieties there are the answer is ‘sooooooo many’!
Our first nibble was when we ordered a ‘Naxian salad’ from a restaurant. It was a salad of tomatoes, cucumber, red onion and capers with xinomizithra (sour) cheese on top. It was delicious. We now make our own every day or so.
Wine and Kitro
How could a place call itself self-sustaining without producing it’s own booze?!
Naxos has been producing it’s own wine for a long time. According to legend, Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and revelry, was born here. He gifted Naxos with fertile land with which to grow grapes, make wine and be happy.
Wine making is a family tradition here where most families have their own vineyards. There are also plenty of bottled varieties. So far we’ve been sticking with the organic ouzo we came across but will certainly try a wine or two before we leave.
Kitro is something special. It’s a syrupy liqueur with a slight citrus flavor. It’s made from the leaves of the kitron or citron tree and has been produced here for over two centuries.
Beekeeping is alive and well on Naxos. There are about 4,000 hives on the island and many different labels can be found in the markets. The bees mostly feed on thyme and heather and also on sage and oregano as these are the typical plants they will come across. Delicious in some creamy Naxos yogurt.
I want the place I live in to be more like this. To produce and celebrate it’s own sustenance. To share this harvest with the rest of the world, in an interdependent kind of way which does not diminish or exploit the hard work of the people here, but cherishes and protects it.
This kind of lifestyle does not appear to be creating lots of super rich people. But it is creating people who live a meaningful and fulfilling life. A healthy and happy life.
Perhaps that is just how Dionysus planned it 😉