5 Unique Vegetables in Authentic Greek Cuisine

5 Unique Vegetables in Authentic Greek Cuisine

Every culture has core ingredients that defines its cuisine. Greece’s produce staples include a colorful array of vegetables packed with flavor. They allow for the creation of a wide array of authentic Greek delicacies. Most Americans have enjoyed such staples as tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, and olives in salads, sandwiches and other dishes. However, there are a handful of unique vegetables you’ll find in authentic Greek cuisine

Here are 5 of Greece’s favorite, unique vegetables for you to utilize in your kitchen:

Beets

Greek beets

If you couldn’t tell already, we’re wild about beets at Go Greek! We use fresh beets (never canned!) to make a delicious salad featuring red onion, lemon, olive oil, and Greek herbs. This dish is both gluten-free and vegan. Additionally, beets are high in immune-boosting vitamin C, fiber, and essential minerals. Those minerals include potassium (essential for healthy nerve and muscle function) and manganese (which is good for your bones, liver, kidneys, and pancreas.) It’s no wonder they’re a staple in the Greek diet. In Greece, beets, known as Badzaria, are commonly boiled and served with a garlic sauce called skordalia. No matter how you prepare them, beets are a great addition to your home cooking.

Peppers

Greek Peppers

While peppers are certainly utilized in other cultures, many people do not realize the important role they play in Greek cuisine. The traditional Greek salad, called the horiatiki salata, includes a hearty helping of bell peppers. However, you will likely only find them present in restaurants serving authentic Greek salads, which do not include lettuce to many American’s surprise. Peppers are also utilized in many Greek dips such as Melitzana salata, which consists primarily of eggplant. Above all, the most common Greek pepper dish is peperies gemista – peppers stuffed with rice, herbs, and sometimes other ingredients depending on the recipe. 

Hortas (Dandelion Greens)

Dandelion Greens

You can’t discuss Greek vegetables staples without mentioning hortas – Dandelion greens. In Greece it’s not uncommon to see women picking these wild greens by the side of the road each winter and spring. However, they are so popular that they are enjoyed all year round. While people certainly enjoy the taste, which ranges from sweet to bitter, they are also known for their health benefits. They contain large amounts of fiber, which promotes digestive health among other benefits. Specifically, hortas contain a type of fiber called inulin that is used in the colon to keep it in prime condition. In terms of preparation, they are either boiled or blanched and drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice. Served warm or cold, it’s up to your personal preference. 

Eggplant

Greek Eggplant

Not only is eggplant the main ingredient in the aforementioned Melitzana, but it is the center of many Greek recipes. One favorite is Papoutsakia – eggplant stuffed with onions, garlic, ground meat and herbs, topped béchamel sauce. There’s also Moussaka – what some call Greek lasagna due to its layers. However eggplant is used where you would find pasta sheets in lasagna. Centuries ago, eggplant was thought to be poisonous as it is a member of the nightshade family. Thankfully this is not the case and we can enjoy all the tasty dishes it makes!

Green Beans

Greek Green Beans

The Greeks consume a wide assortment of beans – including green beans. However, Greek string bean dishes are far from the green bean casseroles you’ll find on any American Thanksgiving table. A delicious use of string beans is in the dish Fasolakia. This simple, but tasty recipe features a tomato and garlic based sauce. The dish is complete with three Greek staples – fresh lemon juice, dill, and extra virgin olive oil. It is great as a side or stew. Just add some potatoes for a heartier dish. And, of course, there is a simple option of serving your Greek green beans as a salad with oil and lemon. 

Fresh produce is a core ingredient in the Go Greek recipe. Our vegetables are never canned, but washed, chopped, and prepared to make the authentic dishes our customers love. Check out the rest of our blog for more interesting insights into Greek culture and cuisine!