The climate and soil of Crete welcome indigenous greens, legumes, and herbs throughout the year. Edible wild greens abound in Cretan land and make for a very distinctive feature of the Cretan diet. As evidenced by traditional recipes, the Cretan diet requires that meat is always served with vegetables, legumes, and greens. Leafy greens grow in heaths, rocky areas, and also close to the shore. Their stems and roots often have a unique bitterish flavor.
The healing value of herbs has always been known to practitioners of traditional medicine, though today we have documented proof of their specific medicinal properties. Botanical studies have shown that the island is one of the richest and most interesting ecosystems in Europe, hosting an important number of indigenous plants. Cretan herbs grow on steep mountains and are collected by experienced collectors and then, they are allowed to air dry and get packed in modern facilities, without any further processing. Some of the species, such as malotira and dittany, are cultivable and can be found in markets worldwide.
Over the past few years, new crops have also been introduced. Aloe, known as the plant of immortality since the time of Alexander the Great, is being restored to its previous glory, as it has uses in the pharmaceutical industry and natural cosmetics. The soil of Eastern Crete has proven especially suitable for the new crops, and producers are ready to invest in new products with good export potential.
The macroalgae polisyphonia is a genus of marine algae found primarily in western Crete, with several species. It is reddish, has crisp flesh and grows on rocky grounds. It is found at the west seashores of Kissamos province and at a small part of Bali by Rethymnon
Malotira (Sideritis syriaca), also known as Cretan Mountain tea is a herbaceous plant or shrub, 10-50cm long, which is met at ranges over 900m in West Crete (over 900m). The species is endemic to Crete and the name syriaca (instead of cretica) probably comes from a confusion of the botanist who gave the name.
Dittany (Origanum dictamnus) (Greek: diktamos) is an endemic herb of Crete, the most famous of all, which is mainly used as a tea and as a therapeutic sip. Its name is taken after the Dikti Range (Lassithi Mountains), though it is also met in all ranges of Crete.