Ferula communis

Giant Fennel

Giant fennel
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Artikas or the giant fennel (Ferula communis) has a prominent place in Greek mythology as this plant was used by Prometheus to bring people the fire from the gods. The reason is that the interior thick trunk of artikas consists of a soft foam-like flammable material and its burning lasts, making it a natural torch. Artikas is a corruption of the word narthikas (narthex) and it indicates the space with soft foamy material inside the wood of the plant.

The giant fennels of Kalavros

Kalavros at province Sitia is one of the most impressive and special villages throughout Crete. It is built on a steep hillside over the sea, at an inaccessible location with spectacular views at peak Liopetro and the wild cliffs of the area. Just above the village and across the ridge that links Kalavros with the impressive archaeological site of Kastellos by Mirsini we meet a a unique phenomenon in Crete. There are big clusters of the plant giant fennel (called artikas in Crete). What makes giant fennels of Kalavros to stand out is their huge size, larger than any other place in Crete. Although every bush in the area is extremely small, a result of drought and strong winds in the area, artikas are simply huge. The wider area is anyway one of the most interesting geological areas of Crete filled with canyons, steep cliffs and steep tectonic mirrors.

Artikites: The mushrooms of Artikas

Around Greece we meet about 2000 species of wild mushrooms, many of which are met in Crete. Several of them are edible and contain no poison to humans. The problem is that it quite difficult to distinguish the species and therefore it is advisable to avoid to collect wild mushrooms for consumption because of the risk. In Crete edible mushrooms are collected during winter and spring months. One of the most popular edible mushroom with easy identification is artikitis (Pleurotus fuscus var. Ferulae) growing next to the very widespread plant artikas (ferula communis). Artikitis is a really tasty mushroom commonly consumed fried in olive oil. It is quite large in size and is white to gray and resembles many other edible mushrooms. We meet artikes all over Crete, but the wider area between Agia Galini and Spili hosts most of them. In the villages they essentially are coming out in large quantities artikites and their residents gather each year in amounts since their collection is quite easy and a walk one can pick up really large quantities. Usually they appear after rains.

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