Le Petit Greek Estiatorio

Hellenic Lifestyle

Lemons- A Greek Love Affair

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Lemon- Citrus Medica

Now we reach the last ingredient of what I call the Holy Trinity of Greek Cooking; LEMON!  Olive Oil, Oregano and Lemon are the 3 main ingredients you will see used consistently in Greek Cuisine.  In fact, Hellenes (Greeks) use Lemon like Americans use salt.  We put Lemon on everything, from fish to poultry, beef, lamb and pork, eggs, vegetables salads, beans, and of course it is used in desserts.   One of my favorite memoires is leaving school at snack and lunch time and popping into my Father’s restaurant in Nafplion, Greece to eat.  He would prepare me a basket of Fried Potatoes done in Extra Virgin Olive Oil, he’d load Feta Cheese on top and sprinkle Greek Oregano then for the finishing touch a half of a lemon squeezed over the top. Ahhh…life was good.

History- Lemons did not originate in Greece, but thought to come from either Northern India or Southeast Asia.    Persian traders carried the trees along the Silk Road that ran between Asia and the Mediterranean.   It is thought they made their way on to Greece in around 300 BC.  They were used for seasoning as well as for their medicinal properties

Healing Properties- A single lemon has 40-70 % of a person’s recommended daily allowance of vitamin C. The healing properties of lemon include antioxidant, antiseptic, anti-spasmodic, diuretic, bactericidal, astringent, antiscorbutic, febrifuge, antifungal, antihypertensive, antiviral, insecticide and immune-stimulant properties.

Lemon Improves Digestion-  Lemon juice makes fried food more digestible because its acids emulsify (cut) fats so that they don’t lie on the stomach, and aid protein digestion – which is particularly useful for the many people who lack sufficient stomach acid, such as one in two over-60 years of age, and those who are stressed or take antacids unnecessarily. Also, lemons are metabolized to potassium carbonate, which helps reduce any excess acidity in the body.

Lemon acids can aid digestion in people who don’t make enough of their own gastric acid. After the contents of a lemon or its juice have been digested, the lemon acids are metabolized (broken down) into water and carbon dioxide. The breakdown of the other contents releases alkalizing minerals (calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, sodium). In contrast, most other fruits (including apples, bananas, grapes, oranges, pears, pineapples) contain so much sugar that their metabolism adds to the body’s acid load.

Cultivation & Farming- Lemons make up about 18% of the citrus production in Greece, the majority are consumed in Greece.  They are grown primarily in the Peloponnese region and in the Cycladic Islands primarily Crete.  There is even a tourist attraction of a lemon forest on the island of Poros in the Saronic Gulf.   Greek Lemons ripen in winter, but there are a few varietals that ripen in summer. The types of lemon varieties grown are mostly Eureka, Adamopoulou, Interdonato, Santa Teresa, Maglini, Zagara Bianca, Lisbon and Vakalou.  Commercially grown are Karystino and Polyforo.

It is reported about 170,000 tons of lemons are grown a year in Greece and we export about 40,000 to 70,000 tons.   The Greek Government bans the import of citrus plants into Greece to protect them from viruses.

Cooking-  Lemons are acidic and often the binding agent in many marinades.

Natural Meal Tenderizers- Meat consists of muscle and connective tissues that are made up of proteins. Proteins contain lots of amino acids linked together in chains to make large molecules. Meat tenderizers act by breaking apart the amino acids. Marinades designed to tenderize meat usually contain acids or enzymes.

Marinades are usually added to meats such as beef, chicken or pork before cooking. Marinades have two main roles – they add flavor, and they may also tenderize the meat, making it softer and less chewy.

Marinades are a mixture of ingredients that can include acids (typically vinegar, lemon juice or wine), oils, herbs, spices, dairy products, fruits and vegetables.

Raw fruits can be used to tenderize meat before cooking because they contain enzymes that break down proteins.

 My Favorite Lemon Dishes of Greek Cuisine-

Avgolemono – is the traditional egg lemon chicken soup.  Ours is superb! Come on in or pick up an order to go.   Lemon Potatoes- These have become quite famous on the boulevard. Many people assume Greek food comes with rice, but while we enjoy rice it is our Lemon Potatoes you’ll see in the Peloponnese region of Greece.  Ladolemono -this is a light lemon & olive oil dressing we use over fish.

We look forward to serving you some of our delicious lemon dishes mentioned above or our Dolmathes; vegetarian grape leaves stuffed with rice and a lemon dill sauce or our special White Fish from Lake Superior baked in a light lemon white wine sauce over fresh vegetables. Kali Orexi! (Bon Appetit)

Dimitri