Following on from my post last week I want to talk about the health benefits of a traditional Cypriot diet. Whenever I visited Cyprus in the past I was always surprised and delighted with how much better the food always tasted there. The fruit was sweeter, the chicken more flavoursome, the potatoes were like nectar and still are of course the sunshine has much to do with how the fruit and vegetables taste. But lately I have noticed things are changing, even my cousin remarked that somehow the fruit bought in supermarkets doesn’t taste quite as sweet as it used to. This set me thinking because I know nothing of how commercial farmers operate in Cyprus I hope to investigate should the opportunity arise.
There are still many small farmers in Cyprus and there are a growing number of organic farms, at the moment about 225, mostly these are family run farms that in order to survive had to diversify. The numbers are expected to escalate soon as new measures are put in place to support organic farmers as set out in the new Agricultural Development Plan which should encourage more farmers to explore this way of farming, with a new generation of farmers coming along who are willing to try different methods.
Fruit and vegetable export used to play a large part in the Cypriot economy but now there is huge competition from other countries and the service industry and tourism has taken the forefront of the economy since the 1970’s. A new approach is being taken to focus on quality not quantity of produce. Cyprus potatoes are still exported widely and widely appreciated and I noticed the other day our local market is selling them again. Hooray! Halloumi is another unique Cypriot product,there are many small farmers and producers who have goat herds and produce their own halloumi if bought from a local farmer is of high quality not to be compared with the processed mass produced variety that is more prevalent in supermarkets. I blogged about a local farmer I met when last in Cyprus here:https://androulaskitchen.wordpress.com/2014/08/14/halloumi-oh-yes/ The bread used to be made with an unbleached flour and have a beautiful flavour, now this sort of bread is harder to find in Cypriot shops unless you know an artisan baker. The bread is whiter and much less flavoursome sadly.
Because food plays such a large part in Cypriot’s lives and is so much loved I don’t think the food quality will be allowed to deteriorate without someone creating a fuss. As with the rest of the developed world generally people are much more interested in where their food comes from and what goes into it, If you care about your food you will make an effort to find a supplier of the quality of food you want to eat. My cousin Androula lives in the mountains away from an easily reached supermarket and because she cares about the provenance of her food, gets to know where the best eggs can be bought locally and halloumi, knows where she can get organic olive oil and honey that isn’t heat treated, good bread etc. Cherries grow everywhere near her in season, people from the cities make a special journey to pick them. You can go for a walk and find walnuts etc just lying on your path. Many of these trees are not tended anymore as the villagers have moved away so you can forage for many things.
The Cypriot diet is a simple one and because it does not rely on highly processed food is a healthy one. The staples are fruit, vegetables and pulses, nuts, fresh fish, meat and eggs,cheese, olives and bread and of course yoghurt. Yoghurt is eaten with many meals and is often brought onto the table to be added as an accompaniment, it is a great aid to digestion.
Cyprus is self-sufficient in its food production and the variety is wide. In the cities the ubiquitous fast food outlets are popping up but Cyprus has many of its own healthy fast foods to enjoy, the best ones being souvlakia with salad in a pitta or koupes. Crisps and sweets,biscuits and highly processed snacks aren’t eaten so much. It is traditional to nibble at bits and pieces with a drink but these tend to be nuts, or salted pumpkin seeds and small pieces of grilled halloumi and olives or preserved meats. The meat in Cyprus is of a high quality and always tastes good and again if you can trace where your meat comes from all the better but when buying in a supermarket this isn’t so easy. I was happy to find some organic eggs in the supermarket last time. Luckily they were labelled in English as reading ingredients on a label in Greek does make shopping a tad harder. Well I’m off to ferment some cucumbers now. Kalin orexi.