In particular, there are 4 key components to the Ikarian diet that are more guidelines to live by than recipes, cooking methods, or rules. Scroll on to read more!

Seasonality in Ikaria Diet

Blue Zone Ikaria Summer Baked Vegetables aka Soufico

Plant-based cooking is one of the life-style fundamentals among the people of Ikaria. The real secret is cooking simple, healthy real food, mostly plants, always in season! Vegetable cooking on Ikaria is totally dependent on the seasons. There is, for example, a summer and a winter version of Soufico. Most islanders live by what their garden grows, and by what they can preserve from it, such as the tsifia, or sun-dried fruits and vegetables, which still see them through the long, wet winters. 

Mushroom Caramelized Onion Sandwich-1

In the winter, it might seem like the plant-based diet would become nearly impossible to follow, but there’s a plethora of delicious produce that abounds in wintertime. Mushrooms are a crucial ingredient on Ikaria. There’s such a huge variety, and they are linked to reduced incidence of cognitive disorders as we age, but just as important: we forage for them together in winter, a fun and social activity that everyone can participate in! I love mushrooms in everything from soup to sandwich recipes, and many many more Mediterranean diet-approved mushroom dishes.

Greens are another classic wintery seasonal option, and they are certainly one of the roots of the longevity statistics. Try them in tsigareli and spanakorizo, both classic Greek recipes. In Greek cuisine, winter squashes have a special place. Left to grow all summer, they are the last of the warm-weather bounty that Nature provides before the Fall and Winter really set in. On Ikaria, most gardeners grow winter squashes and set them aside in cool cellars or sheds to store until needed, thinking of pies both sweet and savory. Try squash in everything from moussaka to delicious soups.

moussaka with layers of pumpkin and sweet potatoes

And last, but certainly not least: onions. There is almost no savory Greek dish, from starters to main courses, that doesn’t contain onions. One of the most basic ingredients in the Greek Diet, onions and all their relatives (leeks, scallions, chives, ramps, and shallots among them) are also among the healthiest natural foods we can eat. Try them stuffed, or in the famous Fasolakia Yiahni (Green Beans in Tomato Sauce).


Simplicity in Ikaria Diet

If there’s one takeaway from Ikarian recipes, it’s that simplicity reigns above all. The Ikaria kitchen largely eschews complicated methods and techniques in favor of stress-free, easy cooking. How does it do this so effortlessly? The key is high-quality ingredients (usually seasonal!) that are all-natural, straight from the garden. It really is that simple!


Stuffed Onions (Kelemia)

To understand the idea of shared food – small bites, or mezedes – on Ikaria is to understand the sense of community, camaraderie, and generosity that is a huge part of life on this island. Every table is quite literally an open invitation, and people just come around to socialize. When this happens, you always put a little something out, starting with wine, and then moving on to whatever else you’ve cooked that day or prepared as a preserve. 

Meze is definitely not unique to Ikaria: the meze table is one of the most delicious and accessible in the whole repertoire of foods that make up all of Greece’s robust cuisine. Variety is a key element – mezedes are always a potpourri of flavors, textures, temperature and spice. The whole point is to excite the palate in small bites that burst with flavor!

Honey, Olive Oil, and Wine

When it comes to eating like an Ikarian, there are 3 ingredients that are crucial. The first is good Greek (and specifically, Ikarian!) honey. On Ikaria, local honey, always raw and pure, is one of the secrets to longevity! It just might be the most versatile natural sweetener in all of Greece. It’s one of the key ingredients in the Mediterranean diet, appearing in every kind of dish from desserts and teas to salads and main courses. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner – any time is a good time for a little Greek honey! 

It’s no secret that Greek recipes depend heavily on olive oil. But on Ikaria, it’s usually local, which means that it doesn’t rely on any of the unhealthy chemicals or additives you might find in olive oil in the U.S.! It is known for its high antioxidant properties, and it’s an anti-inflammatory, but it’s also the perfect way to cook up everything from potatoes to greens (in fact, olive oil is an absolute must when it comes to silky delicious greens). And wine? Ikaria is known for a strong wine, which naturally ferments. Ikarians usually water it down, just like the ancients did! This makes it a delicious choice alongside the many amazing dishes from this island.

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