The strawberry, one of the most popular fruits in the world, comes originally from the Americas. It’s a member of the rose family and is a unique fruit as it has seeds on the outside rather than the inside. The most common varieties are a hybrid of the wild Virginia strawberry (native to the USA) and the Chilean variety (originally from South America).
Native Americans were eating strawberries when the European settlers arrived. Often the crushed berries were mixed with cornmeal and baked into strawberry bread. After trying this bread, colonists developed their own version of the recipe which became the famous strawberry shortcake.
In the 1500s, explorers brought the fruit back to France from Virginia. The Virginian and Chilean varieties were then brought together accidentally about 250 years ago in a botanical garden in France, where a new type of strawberry was born. This is the variety we eat with such gusto in Europe today.
The strawberry was also a symbol for Venus, the goddess of love, because of its red heart shape.
The English word "strawberry" comes from the Anglo-Saxon "streoberie". The word was first spelt in the modern way around 1538.
In 1625 the British Francis Bacon described how ‘strawberry-leaves dying, yield an excellent cordial smell’, suggesting that strawberries were admired as much for their scent as their taste. It is still true that the very smell of the fruiting strawberry plant gets your mouth watering. Indeed the strawberry features in many works of fiction throughout history, including these:
The strawberry grows underneath the nettle
And wholesome berries thrive and ripen best
Neighbour'd by fruit of baser quality.
William Shakespeare, Henry V (c. 1599), Act I, scene 1, line 60.
The man saw a luscious strawberry near him. Grasping the vine with one hand, he plucked the strawberry with the other. How sweet it tasted!
Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did.
Dr William Butler, 17th Century English Writer
In Britain many regions grow strawberries, including Kent, Devon, Cheshire, Lancashire and Scotland. But of course, the fruit grows equally well in warm and Mediterranean climates of the northern hemisphere. In Europe there are even annual strawberry festivals in the Greek towns of Paradisi and Nea Manolada, and in the French town of Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne, as well as many in the US. There are also many strawberry fayres in the UK too, from community events to music festivals. In parts of Bavaria, the annual rite of tying small baskets of wild strawberries to the horns of cattle as an offering to elves is still practiced by country folk. Elves are believed to be passionate about strawberries and the offering will mean healthy calves and abundant milk.
It is impossible to mention strawberries without their mouth-wateringly perfect complement, cream. There is something quintessentially British about strawberries. An English summer wouldn’t be the same without a bowl of strawberries drizzled with cream. This delicious combination has been enjoyed for centuries, from kings to commoners. But nowhere is it more iconic than at Wimbledon, the international home of lawn tennis.
Celebrate this decadent fruit. Use our concierge service to add Wimbledon or festival tickets to your holiday itinerary or book a tour around the strawberry growing regions of the world.
Greece has everything the traveller needs. Awe inspiring sightseeing, miles of beaches of every kind, hundreds of islands to visit and great weather for two thirds of the year. What it also has is fabulous gastronomy. The country still suffers from a terrible reputation for poor food gained from the sub-standard fare served to tourists in mass market hotels, the ubiquitous giros, and the limited menu on offer in Greek restaurants around the world. But Greece's cuisine today is actually fresh and fabulous. Today top chefs are developing a fusion of the traditional with a modern style. This rediscovery of Greek food heritage is winning acclaim and makes Greece a real foodie destination.
Foremost exponents of the reconstruction of well-known Greek dishes are Georgianna Chiliadaki & Nikos Roussos. Owners of Funky Gourmet in Athens, they have been awarded two Michelin stars for their avant guard twist on classics such as Pastitsio (macaroni with mince) and Horiatiki (Greek salad).
Fresh local ingredients are now being celebrated by renowned chefs such as Alexandros Kardasis and Sotiris Evangelou. No mention of top Greek chefs would be complete without Michelin starred Ettore Botrini. His restaurants in Corfu, Athens and now Rhodes set the bar high. Botrini can be seen on the Greek version of 'Kitchen Nightmares' and has published many recipe books. All of these chefs and many more are ensuring that Greek's culinary tradition is preserved but also taken to another level of excellence.
Greece has always produced top quality olive oil, fruit and vegetables and of course seafood. What many people don't know is that the more mountainous regions produce a vast range of cheeses - it's not just all about feta! The meat is some of the most succulent I have ever eaten, despite the preference for serving well done in most tavernas, even today. Instead of taking these great ingredients for granted, Greek chefs are now celebrating them.
Crete has been at the forefront in the revival of traditional Greek cooking since the 1990s. Its produce is excellent due to the long growing season and the Cretan people's connection to the land. Along with other notable regions and islands, Santorini with its fertile volcanic soil, the Peleponnese and Halkidiki with their world famous olives, there is so much variety in produce and cuisine to try in Greece.
All over Greece there are now opportunities for the foodie tourist to experience this first hand. Cookery classes, olive oil tastings, bakery demonstrations and all manner of meals are on offer. From the rustic to the very grand, you can find it all in Greece.
Celebrate the great culinary come back on a Tasteful Travel Greece tour. Get in touch to find out more.
Avid travellers like to understand more about the culture and history of all the places they travel to. If you are one such traveller, better your travel experience through a themed gastro tour.
1. Eat Like a Local
Avoid the tourist traps with their expensive and often poor quality offerings. Be shown those hidden gems where the locals eat and dine well. Experience authentic.
2. Experience Local
Immerse yourself in the country or region you are travelling through by meeting local producers and trying their wares. Get hands-on with baking or foraging, or fancy trying chocolate making? Whatever a region offers you can be sure you'll discover the cuisine and culture of it on a food tour.
3. Small Groups
To get the best experience on a food tour a small group is essential. No more struggling to hear the guide or waiting in line to be fed. Groups of 10-15 allow you to get the most our of the foodie experience and it's a great number to get round a table or two.
4. Expert Gourmet Guides
Learn about the history and culture surrounding the cuisine of the region from an expert. They may be local guides or well travelled tour managers but all have a wealth of knowledge to pass on to you. Try new ingredients or ways of cooking in a relaxed and fun environment.
The beauty of travelling on a food tour is that you don't have to worry about a thing. All the planning has been done for you. Visits to producers and restaurants have all be pre-booked and you'll be taken there in comfort. Your tour manager will make sure that all runs smoothly. You just have to enjoy!
6. Carefully Selected Tastings & Eateries
A gourmet tour is lovingly put together to ensure that you get the most authentic culinary experience of the region. From fine dining to cream teas, farmers markets to vineyard visits, you can be sure that only the best of the local venues are chosen.
7. Local Stories
Food history isn't boring. It forms such a fundamental part of local life and culture that it is a fascinating subject to find out about. Stories around the dinner table have been part of human life since the dawn of time. Be part of a foodie group and have fun while you learn.
8. Delicious Food
You can be sure that on a gourmet tour you'll be taken on a food adventure. It is absolutely certain that you will eat really tasty food on the way. From tasting menus to tasting platters, fresh oysters to local cheeses, whatever you try it will delight your pallet.
9. All Inclusive Food Experience
All of the tasting experiences and meals are included in the price of a gourmet tour so no unexpected bills to pay. Even the gratuities are paid. Your guide or tour manager will take care of all payments. But if you want to take some produce home with you, don't leave your wallet behind!
10. Delight Your Senses
Food tours will bring all your senses to life. Hear the buzz of the neighbourhood, see and feel new produce, smell the wonderful aromas, taste the delicious food. On a gourmet tour you will: See. Taste. Learn.
Book your next food adventure with Tasteful Travel.
Let's dispel the myth that Greek wine is all Domestica and Retsina. These days Greek wine offers award-winning, quality drinking. The 'Wine Roads' are routes through the wine regions of Greece, brought to you by an association of wine makers. The idea is that you can explore your chosen region by travelling in a logical way from winery to winery.
One of these routes is the Wine Road of Northern Greece. Actually it is a collection of routes with suggestions of beauty spots, historic places and museums to visit, as well as the best vineyard tours and tastings. Try the 'Wine Route of the Olympian Gods', 'Wine Route of Naousa' or, as we did, the 'Wine Route of Thessaloniki'. There are plenty to chose from and you can find full details on the association's website here.
Thessaloniki is one of the world's eternal cities. With its roots in Classical Greece, it thrived during the Byzantine era and lived through the Turkish occupation, as can be seen by the historic monuments, castles and churches scattered throughout the city. Excellent museums, particularly the Archaeological Museum which houses relics from Alexander the Great and the Byzantine Museum with its fascinating insight into more than a thousand years of history. Don't forget to swing by the White Tower, the symbol of the city which dominates the coastal landscape.
But Thessaloniki is not just a city living in the past. It has a beating heart of markets, bars and restaurants, as well as exciting night life. It also has access to nearby seaside and mountain resorts making it the ideal hub for a holiday or tour.
One of the highlights of this wine route for us is a visit to the Geravassiliou winery and museum. Take a tour around the vineyard and taste the award-winning wines in the cellar, set amongst ancient amphora and Venetian chandeliers. Your wine expert is informative about the grape varieties or blends in each wine. As part of your tour your guide will take you around the museum, mainly consisting of Vassili Geravassiliou's (the owner) collection of wine bottle openers. This gives a fascinating insight into the history of this humble tool, from ancient to elaborate. Other exhibits explain the wine maker's art.
A visit to Geravassiliou is a complete celebration of wine. And you might even meet Mr Geravassiliou!
If you want to experience a traditional bakery in Rhodes, then a visit to the Apolloniatisses is essential. Set in a village on the slopes of Profitis Ilias mountain, the road is winding but oh so worth travelling, with stunning views en route.
Why should you visit?
Set in a village on the slopes of Profitis Ilias mountain, the Appollonia Bakery is well worth a visit.
A women's co-operative, the nine ladies are dedicated to using local produce in their bread, jams and liqueurs. The road is winding but oh so worth travelling, with stunning views en route. In the bakery they also make a selection of the traditional biscuits 'koulouraki' of all shapes.
Their members keep bees, make jam and liqueurs, grow herbs and olives, and ensure that the Appollonia Bakery is stocked with lots of delicious products for their customers.
They will let you try before you buy, so make a trip to this artisan bakery as part of your holiday to Rhodes. Let Tasteful Travel arrange your discovery of Greek cuisine for you.
After the Romans left British shores in the early 5th century, it left the country open to invasion. Tribes in what is now Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands were faced with war, shortage of land to grow food because of increasing population and flooding of low-lying land. News of England's fertile land and ease of invasion reached the Angle, Saxon and Jute tribes. These tribes were a fearsome warrior people and easily subdued the local Britons.
Added to this the Britons in the north were being threatened by the Picts and Scots now that the Romans were not defending the border. Some Briton chieftains made deals with these European invaders for their mercenary services in return for land. This led to the first establishment of Saxons on the Isle of Thanet. Going forward they settled in large numbers in the south of the British Isles.
Although the leaders continued to be warriors, the rest were predominantly farmers. Their contribution to the history of England was significant, giving the country the bulk of the language we speak today. The Saxon methods of farming were much more efficient than previously and gave a great deal more variety to the diet. It was pretty healthy cuisine, varied if not very fancy.
Saxons farmed the land, kept livestock, foraged, hunted and fished. Barley, spelt, wheat, rye and oats were grown. Spelt and wheat for bread, barley for brewing and oats for animal fodder and porridge. Cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and poultry were kept and bred. Eggs, milk and cheese added variety to the diet, as well as nuts, fruit and fungi in season. Meat would have been provided mainly by hunting and Saxons would have dried and salted it for preservation. Only pigs were grown and consumed as a source of meat. I guess that from this came the British love of the bacon buttie!
Vegetables were widely used, although it is not clear whether these were cultivated or foraged. Saxons certainly had purple carrots, the ancestors of the large orange ones we have today. A parsnip-like vegetable called white carrot was also available and wild cabbages. Legumes were grown, such as beans. There is some controversy as to whether peas were grown or whether they came to England with the Normans. Wild roots were collected, such as burdock and rape. To give flavour onions and leeks were cultivated and many herbs, such as wild garlic, sorrel and lamb's tongue grew wild. Other herbs like mint and mustard were grown near Saxon houses for daily use.
Fruit was foraged for, such as crab apples, rosehips, sloes and bilberries, plums, cherries, strawberries and blackberries. All of these were seasonal and most probably cultivated as time went on.
Flavourings were not readily available but the Saxons were traders and some spices would have been imported. Honey was the sweetener and also used in mead, an alcoholic beverage. Wine was made from various fruit but grape wine would mostly have been imported and so only available to the rich. Beer was much more widely drunk, especially as water was not always safe to drink. Cider was also made and was widely available. For alcohol free beverages the Saxons made fruit infusions and juices.
Interested in history and gastronomy? Find out more on a bespoke historically themed tour in the UK tailored just for you.
Another bright day greeted us on the day of our departure from Thessaloniki. After a hasty breakfast we set off for the first visit of the day to nearby Kalamaria. This leafy suburb was quiet and pleasant and the route to it took us along the coast road past one of the old royal summer palaces, now used by state officials. Of course we had to swing by the symbol of the city, the White Tower before turning back to Kalamaria. Thessaloniki has invested in regenerating the seafront. There are now themed areas with fountains, trees and decked areas. A stroll along past the Tower is now essential on any visit to Thessaloniki.
Although supposedly just dropping by for a coffee, we were treated to home made ‘tiropita’ those delicious crispy cheese pies with filo pastry. A good cup of Greek coffee was offered too. What a treat. Refreshed after our short visit we set off to visit a relative in a care home on the outskirts of Thermi, a small town on the hills near Thessaloniki airport. After getting lost and the stupid GPS in my phone trying to direct us across a field and into a factory yard, we finally arrived at our destination. Although a little remote the home is set in lovely grounds and there are fabulous views of the city from the balconies. We were pressed to have some chocolates and remembered happier times before setting off for Halkidiki.
The main motorway passes the outskirts of Thessaloniki with its light industry and many furniture outlets before reaching Tsantali winery. After this I always feel that the scenery becomes more green and picturesque. Scattered vineyards are in evidence but much more so are the hundreds of olive groves producing the famous big fat Halkidiki olives. The soil here is red and the contrast between the red and the green and grey of the olive trees is really beautiful.
Arriving at our small hotel at the top of the first leg of Halkidiki (an area known for its 3 parallel peninsulas or ‘legs’), I felt at peace. It is such a lovely part of the world. The azure of the sea meeting the deep green of the pines and flowers everywhere.
After such a busy day we didn't want to venture too far for dinner so drove the short distance to Gerakini Beach and the excellent taverna Anemomilos (the windmill). Since we had been fed everywhere we went today we decided to share a mossaka and a ‘horiatiki’ known worldwide as Greek Salad with a carafe of the very passable house red wine. Artisan bread and oil were brought with the salad to start. The moussaka was one of the best I have ever eaten, and believe me, I’ve tried a few! It was home made and to the chef’s own recipe. The service was excellent and the whole experience extremely enjoyable. Anemomilos is right opposite the Ikos Olivia 5* hotel and the hotel gives the taverna their seal of approval as they issue their guests with discount vouchers. More about the hotel tomorrow.
Today is a day of visits to relatives and friends so we make sure we have some time to relax before the running around begins. Instead of heading to the centre, round Aristotelous Square (named after Aristotle who came from Halkidiki just down the road from here), we decide to go for coffee at the port. On the way we passed jewels of turn of the century architecture amongst the less delightful blocks of flats.
Once Thessaloniki was full of such beautiful buildings but a huge fire in 1917 destroyed about two thirds of the centre of the city.
Along the seafront there are a few 'Belle Epoque' buildings and deco masterpieces can also be found. Stroll around the centre of the city and you will stumble across wonderful old buildings wedged between the ubiquitous flats. What you will also find are remains of the Byzantine city walls as well as Roman ruins, such as the Arch of Galereus and the Emperor Galereus' Palace. It is an ever fascinating place to walk around for those interested in history but here there is something for everyone, great shopping, sightseeing, cultural events and much, much more.
The port has been redeveloped as a cultural hub with several museums near the wonderful Passenger Terminal building. Although still functioning as a commercial port, Thessaloniki no longer has the same amount of maritime traffic as it once did. There are still ferries operating but nothing like from Piraeus and mainly in the summer to the Sporades islands for example. Cruise ships put in at Thessaloniki but again, not in large numbers. So Thessaloniki made a smart move by regenerating the area and capitalising on the fabulous views you get of the city from the port area.
To the left of the magnificent Passenger Terminal building and facing the sea is the Kitchen Bar, our destination for coffee and later a spot of lunch. We sat outside watching the pleasure boats on their harbour tours and the huge container ships at anchor. The weather was sunny with a few clouds to make it interesting. To our left the whole of Thessaloniki and close by Aristotelous Square. My frappe (iced coffee) tasted delicious looking at that great view. Basking in the sun in great surroundings is what holidays are all about.
We enjoyed a spot of lunch at Kitchen Bar, American style diner with a Greek twist. Food is plentiful and tasty. Knowing how large the portions are we only ordered one ma in course and a salad and were totally full. The pork souvlaki was succulent and the salad unusual, including baby figs, Cretan hard cheese and beetroot leaves, as well as spinach and cranberries. Bizarre combination I hear you cry, but it worked.
Tearing ourselves away from the view we whizzed back to the apartment for a quick change. Next stop Panorama, upmarket hilltop suburb of Thessaloniki. Here we visited relatives and were pressed to eat some 'spanakopita' and 'tiropita' (spinach and cheese pies respectively) made by the mother in law in Crete. Despite being pretty full from lunch the pies were so appetising that of course they had to be tried. To go with our coffee we also had to try some 'glyko', home made fruit in syrup, also known as 'spoon sweet'. In this case we were treated to strawberry glyko, a bit sweet for me but yummy nevertheless.
Last stop in our packed programme was with another friend who we had arranged to meet near Parorama in another picturesque village on the heights. Our destination was Zografou, a cute cafe bar which offers a great range of herbal tea, particularly Krocus Kozanis, made with saffron. Of course they also serve wines, beers and snacks. I stuck with a lager and this time chose an Alfa, which is not at all bitter and very easy drinking.
We had a pleasant time catching up with news of friends, work, etc, and said our goodbyes fairly early as our friend had to get up early next morning. Frankly we were pretty relieved as we were whacked! Mind you before we left, in true Greek tradition, our friend gave us a huge box of cakes as a gift. The patisserie box was full of the local speciality of 'Panorama trigono', filo pastry triangles with syrup and custard. My diet is suffering but it is all too good not to eat!
The way home was a bit exciting as we went the wrong way up the road and ended up winding down the big hill on some windy single track roads - terrifying in the dark. But the view of the city lights as we returned to civilisation was amazing. And so to bed...
Feeling a little more refreshed we got up and made breakfast. Barley rusks with olive oil and tomatoes called dakos (something we learned in Crete), olives, boiled egg, soft cheese and fresh bread. Did I mention the cucumber and lashings of olive oil? So delicious and certainly beats a bowl of cereal.
I was still so tired from the early morning and flight delay that I declined to accompany Peri into the city centre. He had business to take care of so the thought of sitting in government offices for the morning didn’t fill me with get up and go. On his return we set off for a late lunch along the seafront in Nea Krini (part of Kalamaria). We wanted something more traditional than yesterday so headed for an ‘estiatorio’, an eatery in between a taverna and a classy restaurant. After driving down the strip and then back up we decided on Okeanis. They have a menu which changes from day to day.
The food was certainly plentiful and it was excellent Greek staples such as ‘kokkinisto’ (beef stew with tomatoes - kokkino means red) and 'bakalaria me skordalia' (cod with garlic sauce). We were not hungry enough for starters as we know of old how huge the Greek portions are! Instead we settled for a main course each and a salad. This time we chose the ‘horta’ which is wild greens, a bit like spinach but with a more bitter flavour. We added plenty of lemon juice and olive oil and started on it whilst we waited for our main courses.
The kokkinisto came with oven baked courgettes - delicious - and so filling I only added the ubiquitous bread rather than ordering some kind of potatoes as well. The cod was battered and was really light and the cod succulent, with the accompanying skordalia piquant with raw garlic. Good job we both had some!! And what did we drink with this feast? Retsina from one of the oldest and best procurers in Greece, Malamatina. Crisp, cold and supremely refreshing on a hot day. It is the perfect choice for lunch. To finish the meal what better than fruit and ice cream as a gift from the restaurant?
Back to our apartment to get changed and then our with friends to a bar at the marina, Erotikos. No, it is not a girlie bar as the Greek word ‘erota’ is only concerned with romance. The bar is cool, music not too loud so you can chat, and there is a good selection of Greek and international beer. I chose the Fix, one of the oldest breweries in Greece. Brewed in Athens, this lager is light and yeasty with great flavour and no real bitterness. Refreshing and morish, I managed to drink all of a large bottle on my own - usually unheard of! It was great to catch up with old friends, especially in lovely surroundings.
As usual Thessaloniki provides great cafe and restaurant culture and I’m loving it. Can't wait to see what tomorrow brings in this exciting city.
After not one but 3 different delays which kept us on the tarmac at London Gatwick for over an hour longer than expected, we finally took off for Thessaloniki. Don’t you love computer systems?! At least we were on the very early flight so still arrived in Greece for lunchtime.
Having hired a car we stepped out of the air conditioned airport into the wonderful hot sun. This is the perfect time to visit as the blazing heat of the summer has mellowed but you are still guaranteed uninterrupted sunshine and temperatures of approx 24oC.
We’re staying in the leafy suburb of Kalamaria within walking distance of the sea. To blow away the cobwebs we went for a walk around the area. Of course we headed for the beach! My husband remembers swimming there as a boy but tells me that nobody does so now. But we can see some of the huge Bay of Thermaikos which Thessaloniki stands on and we found a picturesque spot. It just so happens that, past the quaint little fisherman’s church, is one of the city’s best clubs, Remvi, which is also a trendy bar and restaurant.
Of course we were starving by this point so took a table in the restaurant which boasts a fabulous view.
The food at Remvi is modern but uses some unusual local produce. There is nothing of the traditional taverna about the menu but instead some Greek mainstays like meatballs, have been reinvented as chicken meatballs with the taste of wonderful fresh herbs and served with game chips. I had the grilled octopus which was soft and delicious. The salad we chose to go with our meal was ‘herbs from Ammouliani’. Ammouliani is a small island off the coast of Halkidiki, about a 2 hour drive from Thessaloniki. Neither of us knew what would turn up but the huge salad was of a cooked vegetable which we had never eaten before. It was a little like samphire but tasted quite different. It was almost bitter but not unpleasantly so and I could not compare the flavour to anything else. Dressing the greens were crushed tomatoes, a soft cheese which resembled cottage cheese but tasted a whole lot better, and a vinaigrette. Interesting and tasty. It was too hot for wine so we shared a large bottle of Fix beer. Deliciously refreshing.
We declined the dessert as we were full but we stopped at a local patisserie for cakes for later. Thessaloniki is the city of patisseries. Almost every corner has one. They generally serve homemade ice cream as well as cakes (works of art!) and the fabulous chocolates. We swung by the supermarket and stocked up as we decided to go self-catering this time.
And so to bed! Exhausted after the long day of travel, the hot sun and the walking. I wonder what delights tomorrow will bring…