Rich soil, year-round sunshine and a cool breeze rolling in off the Aegean Sea: mix these growing conditions together and you get an insight into why Santorini has long been regarded as one of Greece’s top spots for a gastronomic getaway.
But, while the picturesque Greek island has been attracting lovers of fine food and wine for millennia, only now is it making a concerted effort to entice tourists into stopping off and making the most of the local offerings.
Indeed, 2013 has been named the ‘Year of Gastronomy in Santorini’ and, as such, there has arguably never been a better time to book cheap Greece holidays so that you can experience what the culinary culture of the island is all about.
Over the course of the year, restaurants across the island will be tweaking their menus to celebrate the most-famous local dishes, giving visitors the chance to join locals in enjoying a taste of the real Santorini.
So, where does a tourist keen to delve into the celebrated tastes of the Greek islands begin? Quite simply, with dishes that make the most of the extra-fresh produce that grows on the island. Take white aubergines, for example. Unlike aubergines grown elsewhere in the world, the volcanic soil of the island not only alters the colour dramatically, but it also helps makes the flesh even sweeter and juicier than usual.
Local taverns serve dishes of fried white aubergine, often drizzled with locally-gown lemon juice, while some restaurants also use it as a base for vegetarian moussaka, perfect for vegetarian holidaymakers keen to try something both different and authentically local.
Similarly, and again thanks to the perfect mix of year-round sunshine, a cooling sea breeze and mineral-rich soil, the cherry tomatoes grown on Santorini are just that bit juicier and tastier than those found elsewhere in Europe.
Just as with Santorini’s white aubergines, the tiny tomatoes serve as the base for many of the best dishes on offer in the island’s traditional tavernas and restaurants, helping make sauces that little bit sweeter and more succulent and salads even more refreshing.
Santorini’s fava beans have been staple of the island’s diet for centuries, with locals cooking them with olive oil and onions for a tasty side dish or even mashing them up to eat as a distinctive accompaniment to meat such as lamb.
Likewise, capers, which can be seen growing on most parts of the island, have long-been a favourite of residents and visitors alike, giving a salty, spicy kick to salads and pasta sauces.
Of course, no dish would be complete without a glass of Santorini’s celebrated wine. Vines have been planted in the rich Santorini soil since ancient times, with the minerals of the earth as well as the high levels of sunshine helping produce some of the best sweet white wine in the whole of the Mediterranean region.
Given the fact that it’s grown locally, wine-lovers will be able to pick up a top-class bottle for just a few euros, either to take home as a souvenir of their time on the island or to wash down the fine local cuisine that will be on offer during the Year of Gastronomy.
Photo credit: Klearchos Kapoutsis