Naxos is a fertile land – some call it a paradise – possessing all the qualities for it to be almost entirely self-sufficient. The produce of the island is renowned across Greece, due to its unique quality and taste. Here are a few of the most beloved products:
Potatoes from Naxos are famous for their rich flavor. In the island’s lowlands, you’ll find the earth planted with potatoes almost right up to the sea.
Potatoes are grown twice a year: the winter crop is planted in July – August and harvested in November, while the summer crop is planted in January – February and takes about four months to mature. Farmer George Prevolis says, “The potato seeds come from Holland. Our soil and microclimate makes them yield a clean, sweet taste.”
Organic production is very demanding and therefore limited. Dimitri Sideris, the only certified organic potato producer on the island – together with his wife Maria Katsara – grow organic potatoes and other vegetables on about 10 acres of land in Eggares. “Organic farming is time-consuming. Everything must be done with patience,” Maria explains. “Organic farming also has lower yields and a shorter life – the products must be consumed faster.”
PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) Citron liqueur of Naxos
Half a century ago, the fruit of the citron was canned in seawater brine and exported in bulk, while the leaves of citron were used to add extra aroma to citron liqueur – at the time called kitrorako.
Gregory and Markos Vallindras continue the tradition, four generations later. They select the best leaves from October to February and distill them in the same vessel their family has used since 1870. The distillery exports its award-winning liqueur to the US, Egypt and several European countries.
The sweet liqueur comes in three varieties (with different percentages of alcohol and sugar) and in different shades of green, yellow, and white.
INFO: Citron Vallindras Naxos, Halki, Naxos Tel. (+30) 2285.031.220
“Potatoes from Naxos are famous for their rich flavor. In the island’s lowlands, you’ll find the earth planted with potatoes almost right up to the sea.”
The island’s two largest dairy producers are the Union of Agricultural Cooperatives and Manolis Koufopoulos – processing 27 tons of cow’s milk daily – for the production of the famous PDO gruyere of Naxos and other cheeses made with mixed cow’s and goat’s milk.
There are some 150 family dairies scattered around the village of Filoti, producing both fresh and mature cheeses from raw goat’s milk from freely grazing herds. Their freshness and quality is astonishing.
Below are some of the island’s specialty cheeses:
Arseniko | Arseniko cheese, from the Greek word for ‘male’, is a pampered and cared-after cheese – treated just like Greek males in their families. Very kneaded and oiled, it is truly delicious. After being heated, rennet is added to the milk and the curds are gently agitated. They are patiently stirred with a wooden spoon and when they start to come together, they are emptied onto a kneading bench. The liquid is kneaded for hours to remove the whey – which is collected for making cottage cheese. The kneaded cheese is salted, washed with vinegar, rinsed with water and then placed on a greased board and stored in a cool, dark place. It is brushed with olive oil (which gives it its dark color on the outside). It requires at least three months to mature, but those in the know say the cheese should mature for at least seven months for its unique flavor to come out.
Thilykotyri | The cheese that is produced from the whey collected from Arseniko’s production is called thilykotyri – or ‘female cheese’. Fresh milk is added to the whey, and once it boils, the milk solids are collected with slotted spoons and left to drain in baskets. This soft, creamy cheese can be eaten immediately while still warm. If left to drain, to harden and mature, it turns into sweet and pungent anthotyros, which is great for grating over pasta.
Xinomyzithra | Another delicious Naxos’ cheese is xinomyzithra. This is an easy-to-make cheese, made by most households in Naxos, since it doesn’t require expert skills. It is produced from 80% goat’s milk and 20% sheep’s milk, and curdled with rennet in a clay pot. After one day, the curds are removed and placed into a basket. They are then removed and left to sit in the breeze. A windowsill is an ideal place for this.
The result is a sour, creamy cheese, one of the simplest and most delicious of the Cycladic cheeses.
In Athens, products from Naxos can be found at:
Tyrokomeio Naxos, 18 Ethniki Antistaseos, Halandri, Tel. (+30) 210.683.7758 • Oreini Naxos, 3B Karaiskaki Georgiou, Galatsi Tel. (+30) 210.222.3526 • O Axiotis, 55 Pylis, Piraeus, Tel. (+30) 213.029.7735 • Proionta Naxos, 149 Keiriadon, Petralona Tel. (+30) 210.347.1540